Apple Greenlights Louis Armstrong Doc

Apple Original Films has greenlighted the Louis Armstrong documentary feature Black & Blues: The Colorful Ballad of Louis Armstrong from Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries to join its feature film slate.

The film offers a definitive look at the master musician’s life and legacy as a founding father of jazz, the first pop star and a cultural ambassador of the United States. He was loved by millions worldwide but often mischaracterized for not doing enough to support the civil rights movement. In reality, his fight for social justice was fueled by his celebrity and his willingness to break his silence on issues of segregation and patriotism. With the support of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, the filmmakers have access to never-before-seen archival materials, including hundreds of hours of audio recordings, film footage, photographs, personal diaries and a life’s worth of ephemera for exclusive use in the first significant documentary dedicated entirely to Armstrong’s life.

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The documentary, which is produced under Apple’s first-look agreement with Imagine Documentaries, will be directed by Sacha Jenkins (Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men), and will be produced by Jenkins, Julie Anderson, Sara Bernstein and Justin Wilkes. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard serve as executive producers. The project is being produced in association with Universal Music Group’s Polygram Entertainment, with Michele Anthony and David Blackman serving as executive producers.

Apple TV+ Orders Comedy Series Starring Maya Rudolph

Streaming service Apple TV+ has ordered a new half-hour comedy series starring Emmy Award winner Maya Rudolph.

Created by Peabody and Emmy Award winner Alan Yang (“Little America,” “Master of None”) and Emmy Award winner Matt Hubbard (“30 Rock,” “Forever”), the series will feature Rudolph (“Saturday Night Live,” “Forever”) as Molly, a woman whose seemingly perfect life is upended after her husband leaves her with nothing but $87 billion.

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The project marks the second collaboration between Apple TV+ and Yang following the premiere of the three-time Independent Spirit Award and NAACP Image Award-nominated anthology series “Little America.”

Apple TV+ is $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial. For a limited time, customers who purchase a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can get one year of Apple TV+ for free.

Apple Orders Limited Series ‘Lady in the Lake’ Starring Natalie Portman and Lupita Nyong’o

Apple has given a straight-to-series order for “Lady in the Lake,” a new limited series that will co-star Academy Award winners Natalie Portman and Lupita Nyong’o.

The series is directed and co-written by Alma Har’el. Dre Ryan, who will co-create and co-write the series with Har’el, will write the pilot.

“Lady in the Lake” is an adaptation of Laura Lippman’s New York Times best-selling novel of the same name. The series takes place in 1960s Baltimore, where an unsolved murder pushes housewife and mother Maddie Schwartz (Portman) to reinvent her life as an investigative journalist and sets her on a collision course with Cleo Sherwood (Nyong’o), a hard-working woman juggling motherhood, many jobs and a passionate commitment to advancing Baltimore’s Black progressive agenda.

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“Lady in the Lake” marks Natalie Portman’s first foray into television, as well as Alma Har’el’s first television project. Har’el’s most recent film, Honey Boy, won her the Sundance 2019 Special Jury Directing Award for Craft and Vision, received four Independent Spirit Awards nominations including Best Director, and made her the first woman to win the DGA Award for First-Time Feature Film. She is also the first woman in DGA Awards history to be nominated for both commercial directing (2018) and narrative directing (2020).

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“Lady in the Lake,” produced by Crazyrose and Bad Wolf America, is executive produced by Har’el alongside producing partner Christopher Leggett through her new production company, Zusa. In addition to starring, Portman and Nyong’o will serve as executive producers on the series, alongside Portman’s producing partner Sophie Mas. Crazyrose principals Jean-Marc Vallée and Nathan Ross will also serve as executive producers, and Julie Gardner will executive produce for Bad Wolf America. Author Laura Lippman and Dre Ryan will also executive produce on the project. Endeavor Content is the studio.

Apple’s SVOD service Apple TV+ is $4.99 per month.

Interpret: 90% of Apple TV+ Subs Own at Least One Apple Device

Interpret research found that 90% of Apple TV+ subscribers own at least one Apple device, with 42% owning four or more Apple products.

Apple’s SVOD service (regularly $4.99 a month) has been free to any users who purchased an iPhone or other iOS device in late 2019. After extending the free period through February, the company extended the free service through July.

Pundits have noted that Apple TV+ lags in content offerings compared to other subscription streaming services, such as Disney+ and Netflix.

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Among those who cancelled their Apple TV+ subscription, nearly a third did so because of a “promotional price ending,” suggesting that viewers were anticipating the end of their free trials, according to Interpret.

 

Apple Spends Big at Sundance Film Festival

Fresh off a record fiscal quarter that saw Apple generate $111 billion in revenue and $28.7 billion in profit, the consumer tech giant went to the annual Sundance Film Festival with its wallet out.

The company reportedly outbid Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, paying a record $25 million for exclusive distribution rights to CODA (Children of Deaf Adults), a coming-of-age movie about a high-school senior (Emilia Jones) who must choose between a music career and working the family business with her deaf parents and sibling.

The previous rights fee record was set by Hulu in 2020 after the Disney-owned streaming service shelled out $22.5 million for Andy Samberg rom-com Palm Springs. In addition to being one of the top streamed movies in 2020, Palm Springs generated $675,000 at the mostly-shuttered box office.

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CODA director Siân Heder is no stranger to streaming video as executive producer of Apple’s “Little America” and writer for Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black.” In 2015, Heder directed indie romantic-comedy movie Tallulah, which streams on Netflix.

 

Apple Posts Record Q1 Revenue, Topping $111 Billion

Apple Jan. 27 reported record quarterly revenue for its services segment, which includes sales of movies and TV shows on iTunes, the App Store, Mac App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and Apple News+, among others. The segment generated $15.8 billion in revenue for the first quarter, ended Dec. 26, 2020, compared with $12.7 billion in the previous-year period.

When factoring in more than $95 billion in product revenue, Menlo Park, Calif.-based Apple generated record $111 billion in revenue, up 21% from revenue of $91.8 million in the previous-year period.

Apple saw green throughout its product categories, with iPhone sales up 17% to $65 billion; Mac sales up 21% to $8.7 billion; iPad revenue up 40% to $8.4 billion; wearables (Apple Watch) up 29.5% to $15.8 billion.

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“We’re gratified by the enthusiastic customer response to the unmatched line of cutting-edge products that we delivered across a historic holiday season,” CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

 

Apple TV+ Renews ‘Tehran’ for Second Season

Apple TV+ Jan. 26 announced that “Tehran,” the global espionage thriller from Moshe Zonder and Omri Shenhar, has been renewed for a second season.

“Tehran” tells the story of Mossad agent Tamar Rabinyan, who goes deep undercover on a dangerous mission in Tehran that places her and everyone around her in dire jeopardy. The series stars Niv Sultan, Shaun Toub, Navid Negahban, Shervin Alenabi, Liraz Charhi and Menashe Noy.

Apple TV+ is available on the Apple TV app in more than 100 countries and regions on devices including iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, select Samsung, LG, Sony and Vizio smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices, and PlayStation and Xbox consoles, and at tv.apple.com, for $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial.

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For a limited time, customers who purchase a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can enjoy one year of Apple TV+ for free. This special offer is good for three months after the first activation of the eligible device.

Apple Generates Record Quarterly Services Revenue of $14.5 Billion

Apple Oct. 29 reported record quarterly revenue for its services segment, which includes iTunes, the App Store, Mac App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay, AppleCare, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and Apple News+, among others. The segment generated $14.5 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter, ended Sept. 26, compared to $12.5 billion in the previous-year period. For the fiscal year, services revenue increased 16% to $53.7 billion from $46.2 billion last year.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company posted record September quarter revenue of $64.7 billion, up 1% from $64 billion in the previous-year period. International sales accounted for 59% of the quarter’s revenue.

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“Despite the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, Apple is in the midst of our most prolific product introduction period ever, and the early response to all our new products, led by our first 5G-enabled iPhone lineup, has been tremendously positive,” CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

CFO Luca Maestri said the quarter capped off a “remarkable” fiscal year in which Apple set all-time records for revenue, earnings per share, and free cash flow, in spite of a challenging macro environment.

“Our sales results … drove our active installed base of devices to an all-time high in all of our major product categories,” Maestri said.

The results glossed over the fact sales of iPhones fell almost 21% in the quarter to $26.4 billion, from $33.3 billion a year ago.  For the year, iPhones sales declined 3.3% to $137.8 billion, from $142.4 billion a year ago.

Apple TV+ Orders Docuseries ‘The Supermodels’

Apple TV+ has ordered “The Supermodels,” a docuseries that will feature interviews with Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington, who will revisit their iconic modeling careers and the ’90s fashion scene.

From Imagine Documentaries, the project will be directed and executive produced by two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple (American Dream; Shut Up and Sing; Harlan County, USA) and executive produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, along with Campbell, Crawford, Evangelista and Turlington.

“The Supermodels” travels back to the 1980s, when four women from different corners of the world united in New York. Their prestige was so extraordinary that it enabled the four to supersede the brands they showcased, making the names Naomi, Cindy, Linda and Christy as prominent as the designers who styled them. Today, the four supermodels remain on the frontlines of culture through activism, philanthropy and business prowess. As the fashion industry continues to redefine itself — and women’s roles within it — this is the story of power and how four women came together to claim it, paving the way for those to follow.

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The docuseries, which is produced under Apple’s exclusive first-look agreement with Imagine Documentaries, will also be executive produced by Sara Bernstein and Justin Wilkes.

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Apple TV+ is available on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, select Samsung and LG smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices, as well as at tv.apple.com, for $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial. The Apple TV app will be available on Sony and Vizio smart TVs later this year. For a limited time, customers who purchase a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can get one year of Apple TV+ for free. This special offer is good for three months after the first activation of the eligible device. For more information, visit apple.com/tvpr.

TikTok Owner Seeks Injunction Stopping App Ban in the U.S.

ByteDance, the Chinese owner of social video platform TikTok, has filed for a preliminary injunction against the Trump Administration’s executive order banning U.S. access to the app, effective on Sept. 27. About 100 million Americans use TikTok on a monthly basis.

The request, filed Sept. 23 in the District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks to stop a DOJ mandate ordering Google and Apple to remove the TikTok app from their platforms on Sunday — in addition to ceasing to provide updates for current holders of the app.

ByteDance is currently in negotiations with Oracle and Walmart to sell 20% (for $20 billion) of a new corporate entity called TikTok Global. Trump last weekend publicly gave his approval of deal — until he found out the Chinese would still own 80% of the company. Oracle reportedly said the sale would preclude ByteDance from owning the TikTok app outright.

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Regardless, the Chinese government would have to approve of any deal, which seems increasingly unlikely following reports in the government-owned English newspaper China Times, which called the transaction “dirty and unfair,” and based on “bullying and corruption.”

The Trump Administration, which eyes TikTok as a threat to national security, continues to engage in a war of words with China over trade and technology.

ByteDance says the security fears are overblown and political in nature.

“There is simply no genuine emergency here that would justify the government’s precipitous actions,” read the filing. “And there is no plausible reason to insist the prohibitions be enforced immediately.”