Has Apple Finally Killed the Weekly Box Office Report? It Just Declared Holiday Musical 'Spirited' Its 'Biggest Film Ever' Without Releasing Any Metrics

(Image credit: Apple TV Plus)

The weekly box office report used to be the place to go to find, in the words of one often hysterical former Next TV overlord, "gimlet-eyed analysis of the damned movie business!" 

Not so much anymore. And it's not just because many of the biggest seasonal "tentpole' films are debuting on streaming platforms. 

One of the biggest films of the holiday frame, Christmas-themed musical comedy Spirited starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds, has just been declared by Apple as "the biggest film ever" on Apple TV Plus, after debuting on the three-year-old subscription streaming service back on Nov. 18. 

Apple leaked this disclosure Thursday morning to the Penske showbiz trade monopoly (specifically Deadline), long a destination to find weekly coverage of Hollywood's big global box office horse race. Several hours later, co-star Reynolds tweeted out the boast, too.

(Image credit: Twitter)

Unlike the data-rich worldwide box office competition we've all enjoyed following via the showbiz trades for decades, Apple succeeded in claiming this stature without disclosing one iota of statistical information as to what makes Spirited, which rated a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes critics reviews aggregation, its "biggest" movie yet.

Certainly, there's pedigree to suggests success. Will Ferrell, one of the biggest comedic box-office stars of our time, famously starred in 2003's Elf, perhaps the most successful holiday comedy in the last 20 years, generating over $226 million in global receipts in early aughts dollars. 

And for his part, beyond the global box office, Reynolds has been a prolific on-screen digital audience driver recently for Netflix -- which is starting to supply meaningful viewership data -- with back-to-back (verifiable) Netflix hits Red Notice and The Adam Project

In the same download to Deadline, Apple also disclosed that its historical slavery-themed drama Emancipation starring Will Smith "has drawn +27% new viewers to Apple TV Plus." 

Does that mean that 27% of the audience has been comprised of new Apple TV Plus subscribers? We're still waiting for Apple reps to return emails for clarity. 

Apple also said that Emancipation was "the No. 1 movie internationally including in Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Italy, France, Germany and Korea." No. 1 on just Apple TV Plus?

Again, if Apple wants boasts like the ones it delivered Thursday to Penske to really be taken seriously, more numerical clarity is needed.

More 37 months after its launch, we still don't even know how many subscribers Apple TV Plus has. And in one of the most important calendar "frames" for the movie business, Apple is starting to matter. 

Last year, the service hoisted CODA, the darling of the adult prestige drama season, which went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. 

And as Deadline noted, Apple Original Films has an ambitious 2023 slate lined up, including Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon starring Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio; Ridley Scott's Napoleon starring Joaquin Phoenix; and Ghosted starring Chris Evans and Ana de Armas. 

What good is the weekly box office report anymore if the movie business' biggest offerings not only go straight to subscription streaming, but they can declare themselves No. 1 without offering a shred of credentials?

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!