Yesterday the first trailer for The Banker dropped. The movie stars Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie as a pair of would-be bankers who, because of racial prejudice, train a white guy (Nicholas Hoult) to stand in for them as the owner of their bank, so it’s BlacKkKlansman for the banking industry. It actually looks okay, and the story sounds fascinating. I tried to find more information on the two main characters, Bernard Garrett and Joseph Morris, but all I came up with is a 1968 appeal of their conviction for, I think, misappropriating funds (lawyers, correct me if I’m wrong, because I probably am; definitely seems like some kind of fraud conviction, though). The brief is interesting because it specifically mentions they came up with the ownership ruse because they didn’t think they’d get a fair shake as black men trying to do real estate investment, and they weren’t wrong, were they? This movie wouldn’t exist if everything worked out and no one ever figured out who really ran the bank.
Pay attention to The Banker, though, because it is the first run of Apple TV+ at award season. It will open on December 6, in deep Oscar territory. Everyone has been focused on Apple’s television slate, because “TV” is right there in the name, and also they launched with such a high profile show with The Morning Show. But The Banker will tell us a lot about their movie plans. For instance, it is opening in cinemas and then going to streaming after an eight-week exclusive theatrical run. That is not the twelve full weeks theaters prefer, which is undoubtedly why The Banker is slated for a limited run, despite looking like the kind of movie that would easily nail the $50-100 million range in wide release.
Apple is willing to give a film more lead time than Netflix, but still not enough to satisfy theatres, even if it means they make less theatrically. What I don’t understand is how streaming services imagine these earnings converting. Like, does Apple think they’re going to get $50 million worth of new subscriptions for The Banker? Because they’re not. Kayleigh Donaldson and I talk about this all the time on our podcast, but I’ll repeat it here—no one is making money on streaming right now. Everyone is in debt, and for the industry leader Netflix, the question is if they can ride their debt bubble long enough to start turning a real profit (industry speculation is that they should start seeing black within the next two to five years). For Apple, it’s a little different because they have so much revenue coming from other sources. Apple—and Amazon—can take losses on the chin because the tech sector revenue covers them. But how long will that satisfy? Disney, for instance, is heading for an $11 billion year. There is zero data suggesting any streaming service could make $11 billion in one year. Spend it, yes. Easily. But earn it? We’ll see.
So the things to watch with The Banker are: how much does it earn in a shortened, limited release (and do you think any company will be happy with those earnings as a new normal for film)? And can it break Apple into the Oscar game? Bonus, does this movie turn out to be good? All questions are moot if it’s not good.