A recent story in Fast Company talked about Apple’s big win with Tom Hank’s new film, Greyhound. Apple seems to think it’s found its footing in the streaming world and a model for Apple TV+ going forward. Apple I hate to be the one to tell you this, especially since I’m pretty sure you won’t hear me anyway, but you have not figured it all out. Not even close. Yes, according to reports Greyhound is pulling in numbers akin to a normal summer release, which is nothing to blow off. But If Apple thinks it can repeat such a feet month after month it is making a huge misjudgment. What is it not getting here?
Tom Hanks was the first high profile American celebrity to report a bout with COVID-19. It was a shocker when it broke. Early on during the reporting on the disease it was one of those things that sounded scary but hardly any Americans knew of anyone who had dealt with it or even worse died. It was still sort of a China and Italy problem. Then Tom Hanks announced that he and his wife were in the hospital in Australia. He all of a sudden became like the Magic Johnson of COVID-19. When Johnson announced his diagnoses it shined a spotlight of a disease that had been unfairly characterized as a gay disease or something drug addicts got from dirty needles. But Then Magic Johnson and his giant smile and 5 NBA championship rings had to retire from the NBA fresh off an NBA finals appearance. It was a “It can happen to anybody” moment. Even though Magic is not an every man in any way, he felt like someone people knew. And that is what Tom Hanks is. People call him “Americas Dad”. He brought aids and civil rights to the forefront in Philadelphia, and helped popularize the phrase “You Got Mail,” He Saved Private Ryan and ran across the country. People feel like they have grown up with him and know him. So when faced with the idea that he could die at a still active and vital age it put attention on him like he had not seen in years. Then he got better and hosted a historic Saturday Night Live. Greyhound is his first movie release since then and a theater quality release during a time when nobody can go to the movie theater. Its success is not a big surprise.
The animated movie was the first new release aimed at kids and became available at a time when parents were at their wits ends over how to deal with having kids in the house 24-7. It became one of the very first feature films to be released on-demand during the traditional theater only window. And there you had it. It became a success. It made money like it was playing nationwide with Pixar like numbers. Was it the best kids movie since Frozen? Not even close. But was it the only kids movie out with a novelty factor? Yup. But if Trolls 3 were to come out during a normal time with the option to rent it for $20-25, nobody should expect to see the same kind of excitement and interest.
Tom Hanks has a rep with WW2 and historical content
As stated earlier, Tom Hanks saved Private Ryan, he brought us Band of Brothers, From Earth to the Moon, Landed Apollo 13, he played real life hero’s Captain Phillips and Sully. Now he was playing a captain of a ship set in World War 2. It was the perfect role for him. Fresh off playing Mr. Rogers, Hanks walked into another film role almost sculpted for him. As hot as he is Cloud Atlas might have proven to be an unparalleled success had it come out in Greyhound’s place. Maybe….maybe not.
It appealed to adults
Quick name five live action movies that have been released in the past 3 months that appealed directly to adults (not family movies) with a grown up plot and recognizable actor. The answer is Greyhound, Greyhound, Greyhound, Greyhound and Greyhound. Look. A lot of us have been cooped up for a while now. And Greyhound was the perfect opportunity to put the kids to bed and grab some wine and relax. I think something like the Downton Abbey movie would do well right now too. Netflix and other services have had plenty of entertaining tittles available this summer, Disney+ released Frozen 2 early, but nobody is looking for that underserved audience that wants to see something that makes them think or open up history books. The film industry will find this out again and again. Just Like with the release of Downton Abbey, that older audiences buy tickets too. But they are not looking for the next action epic. I would see King God VS Godzilla on opening day in 3D IMAX given the choice. I am a sucker for pure action and special effects. But my grandparents would not think of it. But a World War 2 epic, certainly.
Apple made a great call getting exclusive rights to Greyhound when it did. And this sort of thing can be repeated if put in place during similar circumstances. But once the world gets back to normal Apple TV+ and iTunes will look just like it did 2 months ago, even if it does release a Christmas musical staring Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell. Has anyone noticed that nothing else from Apple TV+ has gotten hot during the pandemic? Sight, Morning Show, Peanuts in Space? So enjoy the ride Apple. You deserve a victory lap for sure. But don’t think this is a repeatable formula for success.