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Apple taps Oscar-winning studio behind 'Moonlight' to make feature films

Apple has made an agreement with independent studio A24 to produce films for the iPhone producer, movies which may be offered to consumers as part of Apple's long-rumored video streaming service that could launch in 2019.

Promotional image for the A24 movie

Promotional image for the A24 movie "Moonlight"


Few details of the deal between the two companies were provided in the announcement, but Variety advises it is a "multiyear agreement" for multiple films. It is also unknown if the films in question will be made available in a traditional theater release, or if they will be made available via streaming only.

While financial terms are also unclear, it is known that the partnership does not involve an exclusivity agreement for A24's output, nor any form of "first-look arrangement." This allows A24 to remain independent and produce other content without restriction, and to continue to meet existing deals it already has with Amazon and DirecTV for post-theatrical distribution.

Earlier rumors linked A24 to a potential acquisition by Apple, though evidently such a purchase has not yet happened.

A24 is a relatively new firm set against the backdrop of older studios, having been founded only in 2012. But when it comes to prestige, A24 is one of the great success stories in the history of the industry.

For the last three years, A24 has released a slate of films that has rivaled major Hollywood studios in terms of Oscar nominations and, increasingly, box office success. A24 doesn't specialize in established intellectual properties or high-budgeted extravaganzas like Disney does, but it has its niche — prestige films that audiences, critics and awards voters love and has thrived within it.

"Moonlight," the Oscar Best Picture winner for 2016, was an A24 release. So was "Lady Bird," a 2017 sleeper hit that earned five Oscar nominations. "The Disaster Artist," "The Florida Project," "It Comes At Night," "The Witch" and "Ex Machina" are among other acclaimed A24 films just from the past three years.

A24 has sometimes teamed up with other major media companies for releases, but the company has remained a full-on independent entity for its entire existence.

Apple is rumored to be working on creating its own streaming video service to rival Netflix, Amazon, and others in the field. Current speculation suggests the supposed service could go live in early 2019, with one report claiming owners of Apple devices with the "TV" app preinstalled may be able to view the Apple-produced content for free, but with other subscription "channels" also available for third-party services.

It is believed Apple is spending at least $1 billion on its first wave of programming for the service, which will primarily consist of family-friendly content, and has already lined up a number of shows and movies it may be providing through the service. Notable items include a Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston untitled series based around a morning show, the Chris Evans-fronted "Defending Jacob," and a revival of Terry Gilliam's 1980 fantasy movie "Time Bandits" as a show.

The agreement arrives at a time when there are major consolidations within the media marketplace, including the approval of the AT&T acquisition of Time Warner and Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox, after outbidding Comcast. The streaming marketplace is also set to become tougher for Apple, as Disney has announced it will be launching its own streaming service branded Disney+ in late 2019.