Apple has finished at P1 in the race to win the rights to Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski’s untitled Formula 1 movie, and while the movie itself sounds pretty cool on its own (if only because Formula 1 is cool, except when the bad guy team gets every lucky break and the lovable Australian driver can’t seem to get a handle on the wacky new cars), the most interesting thing about it might be the complex and expensive release strategy that Apple is putting together.
But first, the movie: Brad Pitt is attached to star (and produce, through his Plan B label), with him playing a veteran F1 driver who comes out of retirement to “mentor a promising rookie.” Sir Lewis Hamilton, arguably the greatest F1 driver of all time (and the argument is only whether he’s number one or number two), is also on board as a producer, with Kosinski apparently coming up with the idea for this movie after he met Hamilton through Tom Cruise during the making of Maverick.
This all comes from a Hollywood Reporter story that is certainly throwing around the Formula 1 name a lot, but it’s unclear if the actual F1 organization is involved in any official capacity. Pitt, Kosinski, and Apple would presumably need some kind of approval to use the F1 name, let alone any real teams or sponsors, so hopefully that works out. Then again, a complete alternate universe take on F1—with some legally distinct name like Speed System or Race Zero—would be pretty fun. And can we request a cameo from Drive To Survive protagonist Guenther Steiner?
As for that complicated strategy, THR hears that Apple is planning to release the movie in theaters, and not as a small run to make it eligible for awards. Apparently, the plan is for a global run of 30-60 days, at which point it would move to Apple TV+. This would be a first for Apple, assuming a theatrical distributor comes on board, and it would even be a relatively new concept for a streaming service in general. HBO Max gets Warner Bros. movies after 45 days now, but those are theatrical movies that move to streaming, not streaming movies that just happen to open in theaters.
On top of that, “insiders” say that Apple and the filmmakers would be splitting the profits from a theatrical release down the middle, with THR explaining the deal like this: “The unique deal, in essence, pays the creative team three ways: their upfront fees, their hefty buyout fees, and the theatrical backend.” That means Kosinski’s take is expected to be “well into the eight figures” while Pitt and Plan B would be getting “$40 million to $50 million,” which is a fucking whole lot of money. It’s so much money that if everyone working on this movie pooled their paychecks together they could afford to run an actual Formula 1 team.
But hey, if you just released one of the biggest movies of big movie star Tom Cruise’s entire career, you probably deserve a nice payday. Plus, with Netflix reportedly getting out of the “give a famous filmmaker a blank check” business, somebody’s gotta pick up that slack. Apple seems more than happy to do it.