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Apple eyes iconic studio as base for Hollywood production push


Apple eyes iconic studio as base for Hollywood production push

The Culver Studios, where ‘The Matrix’ was filmed, may be leased for content arm

© Reuters

Apple is eyeing the studio where films from Gone With The Wind to The Matrix were shot, as the base for its big push into Hollywood production.

The iPhone maker is in discussions to move its original content division to The Culver Studios, whose former owners include RKO, Howard Hughes and Cecil B DeMille.

Apple’s interest in a studio which has been central to Hollywood moviemaking for close to a century, comes amid an intensifying Silicon Valley battle for the best movie scripts and television projects.

Google’s YouTube is producing original television series, as is Amazon, which recently won Oscars for Manchester by the Sea and has been linked with a move to The Culver Studios.

The Culver Studios would give Apple room to expand as it hires top Hollywood talent, according to three people familiar with the discussions. The site has 13 soundstages up to 32,000 sq ft in size that can accommodate TV show shoots and full-length feature film work. But Apple is mainly looking for office space, albeit in an iconic location that signals its ambitions to become a big force in Hollywood.

Apple declined to comment. The Culver Studios did not respond to requests for comment.

Apple intends to spend more than $1bn a year on original content and recently hired Sony duo Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to lead its push. The pair oversaw the production of hit programmes including Breaking Bad and The Crown, and have been set the task of building a library of around a dozen original TV shows. 

The centerpiece and administrative centre of Culver Studios in Los Angeles is this colonial-style mansion © Alamy

Among the projects Apple is vying for is a high-profile drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, set on a morning TV chat show. The company is bidding against the likes of Netflix for rights to the drama, according to people familiar with the discussions, in a sign that Apple is considering premium productions akin to those found on HBO, the TV network.

However, despite its latest push, Apple has struggled to make a serious dent in the TV industry. Its recent Planet of the Apps reality show, streamed through its Apple Music service, has widely been seen as a flop, while a recent study by analysts at Parks Associates found that Apple’s TV box is losing market share in the US to rivals Roku, Amazon and Google.

Apple's recent 'Planet of the Apps' reality show, with musician, left, and Zane Lowe, Beats 1 anchor, was widely seen as a flop

Still, the scale of Apple’s new budget and recruitment of the sought-after Sony pair is making some in Hollywood believe that this time it is more committed to breaking into the film and TV industry.

“They woke up and said, ‘Let’s really do this’,” said one Hollywood agent. “It’s a lot different to a year or two ago.”

Orson Welles on the set of 'Citizen Kane' at the Culver lot © Alamy

The Culver Studios is close to the Sony Pictures studio lot in Culver City, as well as Beats, the audio group Apple bought two years ago.

Apple’s expansion in the heart of the entertainment industry comes as the company has said that it wants to double the amount of revenues it receives from services such as Apple Music, iCloud and the App Store by 2021 to make them into a $50bn business. 

Apple, which is expected to unveil a new version of its TV box at a press event on September 12, has said that its services division is already the size of a standalone Fortune 100 company.

Producer David O.Selznick walks across the set of' Gone With The Wind' © Getty

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