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David Ellison’s prolific Skydance Media and Apple Original Films have struck a first-look deal for a slate of live-action movies in another sign that Apple is getting serious about biting off a piece of the event movie business.
In turn, Skydance is ending its long-running first-look deal with Paramount Pictures, although Skydance will still have the right to co-finance and co-produce such franchises as Mission: Impossible, Top Gun, Transformers and Star Trek beyond those installments already in the offing, such as 2022 Tom Cruise pics Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible 7.
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Founded in 2010, David Ellison’s Skydance — which has the rights to the Terminator series — has shown a voracious appetite for Hollywood tentpoles (the movies it’s been involved with have grossed more than $6 billion at the box office). It also has been Paramount’s go-to slate co-producing and co-financing partner for more than a decade.
Skydance has produced a number of movies on its own, including Chris Pratt’s The Tomorrow War, which ended up bypassing theaters and debuting directly on Amazon Prime Video because of COVID-19.
Like many others in Hollywood, Ellison’s company began focusing more on streaming during the pandemic, including successfully launching The Old Guard on Netflix 2021. (Both Tomorrow War and Old Guard have sequels in the works.)
The terms of the pact between Apple and Skydance to develop, produce and distribute an annual roster of films at the worldwide box office weren’t disclosed. The deal isn’t exclusive.
The Apple-Skydance pairing isn’t a total surprise; more than a year ago, Apple and Ellison’s outfit struck a deal to handle titles from Skydance’s animated division, which is run by former Pixar chief John Lasseter.
And on the live-action film side, Skydance is producing the previously announced original Apple movie The Greatest Beer Run Ever, directed by Peter Farrelly and starring Zac Efron and Russell Crowe, and the romantic action-adventure Ghosted. Skydance and Apple have also teamed on two TV series, David S. Goyer’s Foundation and the upcoming The Big Door Prize.
Apple has been aggressively pursuing projects with Hollywood’s biggest talent — and spending big money — including Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, and Spirited, a musical rendition of the Charles Dickens holiday classic starring Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds and Octavia Spencer.
Apple Original Films also has several high-profile titles in this year’s awards race, including CODA, The Tragedy of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, and Swan Song, starring Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris.
Skydance’s chief creative officer Dana Goldberg and production president Don Granger lead Skydance’s live-action film efforts.
Upcoming Skydance productions include The Adam Project, directed by Shawn Levy and starring Ryan Reynolds, Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldana and Mark Ruffalo, and Heart of Stone, directed by Tom Harper and starring Gal Gadot.
Skydance has expanded beyond film and television through the years to include interactive, new media and sports, with studios in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Spain and Canada. The company’s investment partners include Tencent Holdings, Redbird Capital, CJ ENM and the Ellison Family. David Ellison is the son of Oracle co-founder and Silicon Valley titan Larry Ellison.