Apple just paid a record $25 million to buy a Sundance movie

Jon Fingas
·Associate Editor
·2-min read

Apple hasn’t been shy about spending lots of money to make TV+ a success, and that’s true even in an era when it can’t negotiate deals in person. Deadline and Variety report that Apple has bought Siân Heder’s coming-of-age tale CODA (“Children of Deaf Adults”) at the Sundance Film Festival for roughly $25 million — the largest-ever deal at the event. The previous record-setter was Hulu’s Palm Springs, which sold for $22.5 million in 2020.

The movie centers on a high school senior (Locke and Key’s Emilia Jones) who’s the only hearing person in her fishing-centric family. She has to choose between supporting her deaf family (played by deaf actors) and its traditions or chasing her dreams of a career in music.

The purchase reportedly came about through a bidding war with Amazon. The Prime Video operator was eager to buy CODA, Variety said, but might not have had the room to release the title in 2021 given an already-packed lineup. Netflix had also shown interest at one point.

This isn’t a completely unexpected deal. Heder is an executive producer for Apple’s Little America, and has received awards and nominations for directing and writing projects ranging from her short film Mother to Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. Her first feature-length movie, Tallulah, premiered at Sundance 2016 and reached Netflix. She’s not only at home with streaming movies, but could produce a critical success.

That last part may be crucial. Although Apple TV+ started winning awards relatively quickly, the service has so far been shut out of some of the biggest prizes, including the Golden Globes and Oscars. While Apple might not have to wait long when titles like Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks are considered strong candidates, a purchase like CODA increases the odds of picking up statuettes. Major awards could increase the profile of Apple TV+ and help it compete against rivals that already have prestigious movies in their lineups.