Apple is reportedly in talks to offer online rentals of films that are still in theaters

Watch out, theaters. Apple is coming for you.
Watch out, theaters. Apple is coming for you.
Image: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Movie buffs might soon be able to rent new releases as early as two weeks after films hit theaters.

Apple is reportedly in talks with three movie studios—21st Century Fox, Warner Bros., and Universal Pictures—to offer movie rentals through iTunes for films that are in theaters, Bloomberg reported. Those rentals would be priced at a premium, meaning audiences should expect to pay more than the $5.99 that a typical high-definition rental of a new release currently costs on iTunes. That’s still less than the average price of $9—or much, much more—for a movie ticket in the US, with the added convenience of being able to watch from one’s couch.

Theater-chain operator AMC Entertainment’s shares dipped down 3.4% from the prior day to $32.65 by the market’s close yesterday, when the news was announced, according to FactSet. Other movie theater stocks were also reportedly down on the news. An Apple spokeswoman reportedly declined to comment on Bloomberg’s story. Apple also declined to comment to Quartz.

The move could make Apple a leader in the online-movie business.

Streaming-video competitors like Netflix have struggled with film, in part, because movie titles aren’t as valuable seven to ten months after they leave theaters, which is typically when streaming services get them.

“If you were passionate [about the movie], you’ve already seen it [when it came out],” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer at a UBS conference this month, Business Insider reported. Movies reportedly make up one-third of viewing on the platform.

But Netflix hasn’t played nice with movie studios and theaters the way Apple has. For years, Apple has promoted movies that are in theaters with trailers and pre-orders of digital copies on iTunes. This has left Netflix with less leverage to push for early releases.

Historically, movie theaters have enjoyed an exclusive window of 90 days or more before new theatrical releases are made available in other formats like digital copies, or DVDs. But sluggish growth at the box office has pushed studios to look for new revenue streams.

The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the impact of a deal with Apple for early releases.

This story has been updated to reflect Apple declined to comment.