On Wednesday, Apple abruptly canceled the planned Thursday world premiere at AFI Fest of its period drama “The Banker” over unspecified concerns about the film, leaving the festival scrambling to fill its closing-night slot with director Noah Baumbach’s divorce drama “Marriage Story.”
The surprise decision to pull the movie represents a blow for Apple as it begins to move into the distribution of original films and launches its Apple TV+ streaming platform to compete with the likes of Netflix (which is releasing “Marriage Story”) and Amazon. Apple’s first narrative feature, “The Banker," which is directed by George Nolfi and stars Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie, recounts the real-life story of how two African American entrepreneurs sought to overcome racial barriers in real estate and banking in the 1950s and ’60s. The film is currently scheduled to hit theaters Dec. 6 before being available on Apple’s streaming platform in January.
In a statement, Apple said the decision to cancel the premiere stemmed from issues with the film that came to light only recently. “We purchased ‘The Banker’ earlier this year as we were moved by the film’s entertaining and educational story about social change and financial literacy. Last week some concerns surrounding the film were brought to our attention. We, along with the filmmakers, need some time to look into these matters and determine the best next steps.”
Representatives for the company declined to comment further on the specific concerns about “The Banker,” which reportedly were initially raised by a relative of one of the film’s main characters.
In 2017, Ridley Scott’s drama “All the Money in the World” was pulled from AFI Fest amid mounting allegations of sexual misconduct against its star Kevin Spacey, who was ultimately replaced by Christopher Plummer before its release. In that case, however, the cancellation occurred more than a week before the planned screening, giving programmers more time to adjust.
“We support Apple’s decision to postpone the premiere, and we’re delighted that our partners at Netflix generously allowed us to screen the critically acclaimed ‘Marriage Story’ to close our fest,” a spokesman for AFI Fest told The Times. Netflix’s “Marriage Story” is currently in theaters and will hit the streaming platform next month.
It remains to be seen whether Apple will alter its release plans for “The Banker.” But it seems safe to say that any awards-season hopes Apple may have harbored for the film, which it has been screening for journalists and critics in recent weeks, are now significantly dimmed.