In a potentially game-changing deal that could impact how streamers and theatrical distributors coexist, Apple has closed a pact to acquire an untitled Formula One racing movie that has Top Gun: Maverick filmmaker Joseph Kosinsky directing and brad pitt attached to star, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The deal, almost five months in the making, reunites Kosinski with many from his maverick team, including writer Ehren Kruger and producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman of Jerry Bruckheimer Filmsace maverick hopes to gross $1 billion or more in its theatrical run. All are back in the same capacity for the racing project and are being joined by Sir Lewis Hamiltonthe seven-time F1 world champion, who will produce along with Pitt’s Plan B banner.
The key to the deal is a theatrical distribution component. But instead of a token release in a small number of theaters or a day-and-date opening, the movie would have an exclusive — and global — run of at least 30 days (one source says it could even go as high as 60 days ) before heading to the Apple TV+ platform. A distribution partner would need to come on board, and it’s unclear when one would be approached. That could happen before production, potentially enticed by a sizzle reel, or perhaps after production has wrapped.
Apple has released movies in theaters before, with animated film Wolfwalkers enjoying a 30-day window and The Tragedy of Macbeth getting 21 days. However, those were small-scale awards play releases, not tentpole-style extravaganzas.
In another first, insiders say the theatrical component is structured in a way that would see Apple and the filmmakers split the take from the big-screen release 50-50. The unique deal, in essence, pays the creative team three ways: their upfront fees, their hefty buyout fees and the theatrical backend. Sources say Kosinski, who will also produce, and Bruckheimer will see paydays well into the eight figures, with Pitt and his company hitting $40 million to $50 million. Apple had no comment.
Before this deal, creatives and their reps had a Sophie’s choice of sorts to make: take a buyout or push for a theatrical release? But CAA, which represents Pitt, Kosinski and Bruckheimer, pushed for another answer: Why not both?
Part of the bet here is Pitt and F1 racing. While not having the box office record of Maverick’s Tom Cruise, Pitt is as big of a name on a worldwide scale. And F1 is a growing and sexy sport that embodies a certain kind of enviable lifestyle. The other bet is the theatrical experience that will take audiences to a place most have never been to before: inside a single-seat racer. just as maverick and Kosinski are generating kudos for real-world practical effects that put audiences in the cockpit of an F-14, the goal is to put the viewer behind the wheel of what is basically a rocket ship on a track.
The idea for the project originated with Kosinski, who is proving to be an idea igniter after having cut through the years-long Top Gun morass with a lightbulb of a concept that Cruise engaged to make a sequel. The filmmaker had put Hamilton briefly through Cruise during the making of maverick, and so when he decided to make a move on his idea, CAA and his management firm Grandview set up a meeting at the San Vincente Bungalows with Bruckheimer, Hamilton and his manager, Penni Thow, where things began to crystalize. A search for a writer ensued, with initial maverick scribe Kruger being chosen, before a fateful meeting just prior to Thanksgiving between Kosinski and Pitt, where Kosinski convinced the actor to join the racing crew for the story’s seasoned driver who comes out of retirement in order to mentor a promising rookie.
In December, the project was shopped by CAA to the studios and steamers in a tight 30-minute pitch that elicited instant offers. In the end, it came down to Apple, Netflix, Amazon and MGM, then run by Michael De Luca. (The latter executive is now in a leading film job at Warner Bros. and could be in a position to bid on this yet again when it comes to the distribution aspect.) Apple cornered hard with a theatrical commitment that, when fulfilled, could prove to be a model for future deals that acknowledge that both theatrical and streaming are here to stay for the duration.