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Apple TV+ movies struggling to prevail in theaters still considered 'profitable'

'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Apple TV+ appears to be pulling some accounting magic after its latest $700 million run of films, which captured only $466 million in revenue, but the company still considers two of them profitable.

Streaming services are attempting to fight a war on two fronts with prestige television and theatrical spectacle. However, reasons ranging from COVID to the slow demise of the theater industry are making it hard to compete with anything without a minion or superhero.

Apple's run at the box office has been middle-of-the-road so far, but a new report from Variety suggests Apple isn't worried. From an anonymous studio source, "Killers of the Flower Moon" and "Napoleon" at least are considered profitable thanks to "ancillary revenue streams."

The basic math doesn't suggest that. Apple's three latest movies — "Killers of the Flower Moon," "Napoleon," and "Argylle" — have earned $466 million worldwide. The trio cost about $700 million to make.

The source didn't comment on "Argylle" being profitable, but it may be too soon as it only just became available to rent at home. The other two could be buoyed to profitability due to customers renting them ahead of their release, but it doesn't seem likely.

All anyone can do is speculate, but it seems Apple may be using its Apple TV+ subscription income and other profits to help keep the projects technically "profitable" — at least on paper. Of the three, "Argylle" seems to be doing the worst with its $200 million development price and $88 million box office revenue.

Of course, releasing a movie in theaters isn't just about recouping costs. It is about award season clout and the Oscars Best Picture holy grail.

A movie created by Apple TV+, shown in theaters, then taking home an Oscar is pure marketing for the subscription service. After Apple's Best Picture win with "CODA," it became an advertising tentpole.

Whatever accounting gymnastics Apple is pulling to call any of these films profitable, the investment may pay off. Apple has 13 Oscar nominations between "Killers of the Flower Moon" and "Napoleon," and we'll find out if the company's investments pay off at the award event on March 10.