Atmosphere at Warner Bros. Studios on January 28, 2014. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Invision for 3D And Advanced Imaging Society/AP)
As Warner Bros. tries again to hit the jackpot on Broadway with a $21 million musical adaptation of Beetlejuice, the future of its theatre arm remains uncertain.
The Hollywood film studio first considered creating a division to produce live stage shows after witnessing Disney’s success bringing Beauty and the Beast to Broadway in 1994. The popular musical made over $35 million in ticket sales during its first year on the Great White Way, and spawned five replica productions in 1995.
“I had been following the success of Disney,” explained its founder, Gregg Maday, “and it looked to me like our two companies were very similar in how they were structured, and how they viewed the business.” Like Disney, Warner Bros. had an extensive catalog of popular films that could be adapted, and also dabbled in the theme park and retail businesses.
Maday recognized that mounting a Broadway show could create multiple revenue streams for Warner Bros. In addition to making money from ticket sales, “[e]ven a semi-successful show can restore an old movie’s luster in the DVD market and give rise to a slew of video games, road companies, toys, T-shirts and collectibles,” observed one writer.
“When it works, it can be magic,” commented Mark Kaufman, who now leads the theatre division.
But, when Maday “started to pitch the idea internally, it was not very well received,” he said. “No one was focused on it,” and “[n]obody cared,” he remembered. For a Hollywood film studio, “it did not look like it was a mainstream business,” Maday stated.
Maday continued to push for a theatre division, and he recalled that “it finally got to the point where I got every division head at the studio to get together in one room, and I made a formal presentation to them about how this would benefit every division in the company if we were to get into the theatre business.”
“My point of view was that it was a double stream of revenues,” explained Maday. Warner Bros. could produce its own shows like Disney and benefit from the “enormous upside to owning something,” and it could also license its films to other Broadway producers to adapt like MGM and “create another form of revenue.”
After the presentation, Terry Semel, the co-chief executive officer at Warner Bros, glanced around the conference room.
“Whoever got all these people together should really be rewarded,” Semel joked. “It is very difficult to do that,” he said, telling Maday to “just take some money, and go do something.”
Maday hired prolific Broadway producer Manny Azenberg as a consultant, and started looking through the Warner Bros. library. “I put together a 22-page study of all the different titles that I thought could translate to the stage,” Maday recalled.
But, of all the Academy Award-winning films that Warner Bros. had produced over the years, Maday chose to make a musical about the D.C. superhero “Batman.”
The composer of the chart-topping rock album Bat Out of Hell, Jim Steinman, learned about the show, “and he really put a full court press on” to write the music, Maday remembered. “Jim thought that he was the perfect guy,” he said, adding that Steinman’s “gothic rock n’ roll did translate to that world.”
“This is a very exciting project that Jim was born to write,” commented Steinman’s manager, David Sonenberg, while a contract was still being negotiated.
To write the script, executives from Warner Bros. approached veteran playwright David Ives. “Even though he was new to the form, I think that he wrote a terrific book,” Maday commented. It focused on the formation of “Batman,” and “I always thought the beginning of ‘Batman’ was like Hamlet,” he said.
Tim Burton, who directed two “Batman” films for Warner Bros., expressed some interest in directing the musical. He was disappointed in how the later films released in the “Batman” franchise were written, and he wanted to “re-establish his original vision” and “redeem the soul of the ‘Batman’ series,” according to one industry insider.
But, after Dance of the Vampires, another musical with songs from Jim Steinman and a script from David Ives, shut after 56 performances on Broadway in 2003, nobody wanted to be linked to a show from the same creative team. “I could not find a director,” Maday complained.
The planned musical about the “Caped Crusader” collapsed.
Maday tinkered with ideas for adapting other titles, and then Warner Bros. received an offer from playwright Linda Woolverton and director Robert Jess Roth, who worked together on Beauty and the Beast. The two individuals wanted to work with songwriters Elton John and Bernie Taupin on a new musical about Anne Rice’s best-selling horror series, The Vampire Chronicles. “None of the elements of the package were transferable,” Maday recalled.
“When you are starting something, and you get offered the two people who had worked on Beauty and the Beast, Elton John and Bernie Taupin on their first Broadway partnership, and Anne Rice, who has extraordinary success as a novelist, as package, it was really difficult to say ‘no’ to that, even if I wanted to,” Maday explained. Warner Bros. decided to take its first bite at Broadway with Lestat, and it set up Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures to produce live stage shows.
But, despite John writing what he believed to be his best score, the Broadway critics thought that Lestat was “bloody awful.” The $12 million musical hemorrhaged cash at the box office, and Warner Bros. laid it to rest after 39 performances in 2006.
“After Dance of the Vampires and Dracula, it might be time to nail the coffin lid shut on all belting bloodsuckers,” quipped one critic.
Yet, Warner Bros. was not discouraged. Maday remembered that its top executives “were extremely supportive, and thought it was a noble gesture in our first at bat.” “‘We’ll get them next time’ was their attitude,” he said.
The next time that Warner Bros. went to Broadway was four years later with a musical adaptation of the New Line film Elf. The two film studios had merged in 2008, and Kaufman and the late Michael Lynne had been working on the show at New Line.
“I was not jumping up and down about the idea of doing a holiday show, because of the very difficult economics of it,” Maday recalled. But, “I went to a reading in New York, and I thought it was absolutely delightful,” he said.
When pitching the show to his colleagues at Warner Bros., Maday explained that, “if we are successful, then we could return it [to Broadway the following holiday season], but more importantly, we could get all those tour companies and licenses of the original production.” “Over time, it could become a real asset for the company, even though the math in the first year will not be too great,” he said.
Warner Bros. produced Elf for nine weeks at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre both in 2010 and 2011. While tickets to the cheerful musical sold well at the box office, it would have needed to sell out the theater for at least nine months to return its estimated $10 million initial investment.
However, the film studio executives insisted that Elf was adapted to keep the 2003 film relevant. “It was pretty clear to us that Will Ferrell did not want to do a movie sequel,” commented Lynne at the time. “So, if you were going to extend that brand, it required something dramatically different,” he said.
In addition, Warner Bros. produced a $12 million musical about record label executive Florence Greenberg, featuring the music of 1960’s doo wop group the Shirelles, in 2011. While Maday thought that “it would be terrific on the road,” “the reviews were dastardly,” and the curtain came down on Baby It’s You! after 151 performances on Broadway.
“It was a placeholder to try to keep us going until we got to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Maday admitted.
While Charlie was being mounted first in London’s West End, Warner Bros. produced a stage adaptation of the Stephen King novel Misery on Broadway. Starring popular performers Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf, the play received negative reviews, and shut at the end of its scheduled run at a financial loss.
“Though it is based on one of Stephen King’s most terrifying novels, the stage version of Misery will not, I promise, leave you cold with terror,” wrote one reviewer. “You’re more likely to experience chills sitting in a tepid bath at home,” the critic continued.
After presenting Charlie for almost four years in London, Warner Bros. decided to bring over a revised version of the show to Broadway in 2017. Estimated to cost at least $15 million, the Warner Bros. musical did not receive sweet reviews.
Benefiting from a known brand, Charlie sold about $1 million in tickets each week during its first four months. But, its weekly ticket sales soon slipped underneath its $850,000 weekly operating costs, and Warner Bros. closed up the chocolate shop after nine months on Broadway. The show did not recoup its initial investment.
Hoping to hit the jackpot like Universal Studios with Wicked or Disney with The Lion King, Warner Bros. is now betting on Beetlejuice.
After the raunchy show received mixed reviews during its out-of-town tryout, the creative team made significant changes to the script and the songs. “We’ve done a lot of work since Washington: new songs, strengthening the relationships,” commented Kaufman, and industry insiders now believe that the show “is no longer dead on arrival.”
However, following AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, it is uncertain whether or not the new regime will allow the Hollywood studio to continue making big bets on Broadway.
Saddled with about $170 billion in net debt from the deal, AT&T is expected to explore ways to cut costs at Warner Bros. Its chief executive officer, Randall Stephenson, emphasized that “[o]ur top priority for 2019 is driving down debt,” and the telecommunications firm initially projected $1.5 billion in annual cost savings and another $1 billion in so-called “revenue synergies.”
“The AT&T guys, at the end of the day, are bean counters, and they wanted to find efficiencies beyond the synergies that they identified initially,” commented one media executive.
“There is going to be a lot of transition, a lot of personnel changes, and a lot of restructuring,” predicted Maday, who left the company in 2011. “There is going to be a lot of change,” he said.
“In particular, AT&T is finding itself short on leadership for Time Warner (in part because of losses due to leaders’ misconduct and subsequent resignations) and struggling to integrate very different corporate cultures, which is likely to encourage them to spin off businesses that are less likely strategically valuable to the combined entity,” explained NYU Stern professor Batia Wiesenfeld. “Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures seems to be among those,” she said.
“I am not sure and I cannot see how Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures fits within the digital business plan of AT&T,” added University of Virginia professor Christopher Ali.
However, it is probable that AT&T will not shut down or spin off the theatre division.
“My sense is that AT&T will not likely disrupt Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures at this point,” opined NYU Stern professor Paul Hardart. “The main cost savings for AT&T in the near term will likely come from eliminating redundancies and restructuring their businesses to compete in the changing landscape,” he explained. “Relatively speaking,” Hardart said, “Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures does not likely carry too much overhead and is not redundant.”
“I also think that WarnerMedia will be making a big push to try and optimize and leverage the company’s collective intellectual property across as many platforms as possible, and Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures is one way to further expand their brands and intellectual property,” Hardart continued. “Though they may not directly invest in the productions (or they may as well if it seems intelligent), they will try to license and leverage their intellectual property and library as much as possible,” he predicted.
With AT&T looking over its shoulder, Warner Bros., which has never turned a profit making its own shows, might shift more to licensing its films to other Broadway producers. “It is money in with no money out,” commented Maday, highlighting that two of the shows that it licensed, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Color Purple, won Tony Awards.
For example, “I know they are working on a live stage version of A Star is Born,” and, “[b]ased on the recent success of the A Star is Born remake, they could definitely get good licensing fees from these shows,” Hardart said.
In addition, if Warner Bros. continues to develop its own shows, then it is expected to seek third-party investors to reduce its risk.
While Warner Bros. and AT&T declined to comment on the consequences of the acquisition, industry insiders claim that the Hollywood film studio planned to produce Beetlejuice on its own. But, after the acquisition, it began to accept investments from interested producers, including Jeffrey Richards, Jimmy Nederlander, and Marc Bell, the former owner of Penthouse magazine.
Warner Bros. and its partners are also now looking to raise $16 million to bring a musical adaptation of the political film Dave to Broadway.
“It is really a matter of getting that one big hit,” Maday said.
FOR a while Manchester United had become just like any other club.
Sometimes up, sometimes down, or, in Louis van Gaal’s case, sideways and back.
AFP4 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been unveiled as the permanent Man Utd manager EPA4 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has landed a three-year contract as permanent Manchester United boss and is just the man to restore the club’s greatness and true spirit
The odd Cup here and there, managers and players coming and going.
Money was being thrown at the problem in a desperate bid for United to regain their place at the top of the pile.
Twitter, Facebook likes and deals with tyre companies in the Far East were the straws being grasped at to prove their dominance, not the football itself.
What Sir Alex Ferguson had built up over 27 years was now only evident in the bricks and mortar of Old Trafford and a museum that was increasingly relying on the past.
The most precious thing, the spirit and ethos, that was so much a part of the club had slipped through their grasp.
In a recent press conference Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pointed sideways and said “it’s in the walls of this club”.
Everyone shot a glance sideways as if he to see something tangible, because it had long gone.
The three previous managers had seemed to dismiss the idea of United’s lasting greatness.
The message was that everyone was living in the past, people had to wise up.
There were new kids in town and it was time to get real.
PA:Press Association4 Norwegian Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gives Manchester United what they have been missing since Sir Alex Ferguson departed as manager in 2013
Because if United fans have enjoyed anything over the years it is hopes and dreams.
Sir Alex Ferguson gave them those and made them reality.
Solskjaer helped to do that on the pitch but all the time was immersing himself in the genius of the man for a later day.
He had dreams himself that he could become the boss and continue the work.
It is why yesterday he greeted the announcement of his permanent appointed in the same way he acknowledged his winning goal 20 years ago in the Champions League Final at the Nou Camp.
Arms outstretched, a broad smile. a sense of awe.
“I am beyond excitement,’ he said.
There was a boyish charm in that statement that stood out.
Nothing arrogant in it, but at the same time not trying to under play the moment.
It was a moment United fans worldwide will have celebrated.
Because since Solskjaer has returned to the club it has been like finding that winning lottery ticket just in time.
Just before the club began to slip into an abyss.
The reconnection with a glorious past has been evident in everything that has happened since he took charge on an initial interim basis in mid December.
PA:Press Association4 Nothing showed more than the reign of Louis van Gaal how much Manchester United were missing the spirit and style of Alex Ferguson’s 27-year reign
The gloom that had engulfed the final days under Jose Mourinho was blown away with a smile and a vision of the future based on a glorious past..
The speed in the football that had been lost in five wilderness years returned.
The potential of young stars was being realised again.
The belief that anything was possible, even when 2-0 down to Paris Saint Germain heading into an away leg.
That incredible turnaround to win the second leg 3-1 and progress to a last eight date with Barcelona said it all.
Nothing is ever lost, no problem insurmountable.
The picture of Sir Alex, Eric Cantona and Solskjaer with fists pumped in the dressing room of the Parc des Princes afterwards may go down in history as the moment United said; ‘We are back’.
It won’t be plain sailing, of course
What Manchester City have built up with a long term strategy that had Pep Guardiola at its end is something formidable.
If Liverpool can shake the weight of history off their shoulders and win the title this season, they will be back on their perch.
The threat from the new White Hart Lane will be dependent on whether Spurs can find the cash now to strengthen a team as well as build a stadium.
Arsenal and Chelsea will not go away.
Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward will make sure Solskjaer has to the cash to create his team.
What he has already brought out of many of the players already at the club has been priceless.
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The atmosphere at Old Trafford is now as good as ever.
It’s because, something that was feared lost has been found again..Manchester United.
The Manchester United Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson wanted it to be and one that Solskjaer has recovered.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday referred to Mission Shakti, a day after India shot down a live satellite in space, at an election rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut to assert that he has led a “decisive” government at the Centre in the last five years.
“Zameen ho, aasmaan ho ya phir antariskh, surgical strike ka saahas aapke is chowkidar ne dikhaya hai (This chowkidar has shown the courage to carry out surgical strike, be it on land, in the sky or space),” said PM Modi as he kick-started election campaign in this western Uttar Pradesh district.
Watch: ‘Confused A-SAT with a theatre’: PM Modi’s jibe at Rahul Gandhi
PM Modi targeted previous regimes at the Centre saying that the governments in the past believed in slogans instead of “taking right decisions” to ensure safety and security of the nation. “Nation has seen many governments that gave slogans but it has for the first time seen a government that takes prompt decisions,” he said.
The prime minister took a potshot at Congress president Rahul Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after they criticised announcement of successful launch of anti-satellite missile on Wednesday.
Gandhi, while taking a dig at PM Modi after he announced success of Mission Shakti in a televised address to the nation, had wished him “Happy Theatre Day”. On the other hand, Banerjee had called PM Modi’s announcement as “limitless drama”.
In his comeback, PM Modi said, “They got confused A-SAT with set used in theatres. Whether we should cry or laugh at their intellect for confusing space mission with theatre.”
He also attacked the Opposition parties for seeking clarification from the government over strike by the Indian Air Force at Balakot in Pakistan. “Do we need sapoot (obedient son) or saboot (evidence),” said PM Modi responding to the Opposition.
The IAF targeted a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp on February 26 in the aftermath of Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed. The Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack.
At his Meerut rally, PM Modi said he will present his government’s report card in the coming days while fixing accountability of the rival parties. “I will give an account of my work but at the same time seek an account from my opponents. Sabka hisab hoga, baari baari se hoga, tabhi to hisab barabar hoga (Everyone will be accounted for, one by one, only then justice will be served),” PM Modi said.
He also targeted the grand-alliance of the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Bahujan Samaj Party formulating an acronym “SaRaB” (picking the initial letters of the three parties) and translating it as liquor. PM Modi said, “Stay away from ‘SaRaB’ in the election for the good health of Uttar Pradesh.”
The BSP, the SP and the RLD have joined hands in Uttar Pradesh to contest 78 of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state leaving out the constituencies of Amethi and Rae Bareli represented by Congress president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi respectively. The grand-alliance presents the biggest challenge to the BJP in the state, where alliance led by the ruling party had won 73 seats.
The prime minister’s public rally was aimed at galvanising the BJP’s support base in the entire western Uttar Pradesh, which votes in the first phase of parliamentary polls.
The BJP has nominated Lok Sabha MP Rajendra Agrawal in Meerut parliamentary constituency. He is a two-time sitting from Meerut. Lok Sabha MPs of Baghpat (Satya Pal Singh), Muzaffarnagar (Sanjeev Baliyan) and Bijnor (Kunwar Bhartendu Singh) also attended the BJP rally in this western Uttar Pradesh district.
Satya Pal Singh is the Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development. The sitting MPs of these four constituencies have been re-nominated by the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
The constituencies of Meerut, Baghpat, Muzaffarnagar and Bijnor will vote in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections on April 11. Uttar Pradesh will vote in all seven phases of the national election that ends on May 19. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.
What does God want, and who truly knows? Who gets to decide what is right? These are just a couple of the questions raised in Hansol Jung‘s wrenching new play, Cardboard Piano, in its New England premiere at New Repertory Theatre. Set in Northern Uganda at the turn of the millennium, a forbidden love story unfolds with the backdrop of rising civil unrest, setting in motion a series of events that spans fifteen years in the lives of the principals who survive the violence and hostility that is endemic to the African nation.
Director Benny Sato Ambush (The Whipping Man, Thurgood) is the right man for the job as he focuses attention squarely on the human strengths and frailties that drive the actions of the characters. Where there is something broken in one, a measure of healing is offered by another. When trauma is inflicted on one, another seeks to restore wholeness. Tragic loss leads to hatred and grief, but time and maturation contribute to understanding and equanimity. There may be no happy ending, but growth and awareness signal some progress and a glimmer of hope.
Cardboard Piano features scenic design by Jon Savage, a rough-hewn church interior with a hole in its corrugated ceiling through which rain pours. Dewey Dellay provides the evocative sound of rain hitting on the roof, as well as some atmospheric underscoring, and lighting designer Scott Pinkney‘s effects augment the drama. Dialect Coach Bryn Austin has done excellent work with the actors to capture the accents of their Ugandan counterparts, and Jessica Scout Malone is on board as fight and intimacy coach.
The first act introduces 16-year old Chris (Marge Dunn), the daughter of American missionaries whose church serves the spiritual needs of the township, and Adiel (Rachel Cognata), a local teenage girl who has lost her parents to the ongoing strife. Like Romeo and Juliet, or Tony and Maria before them, the girls share a passionate, yet illicit love and make vows to commit to each other as husband and wife, while planning to escape to a safer, friendlier region. Their joyous, clandestine celebration is cut short by the appearance of a bleeding, gun-wielding young boy soldier, more frightened than he is menacing. Kidnapped into the army as a ten-year old, Pika (Marc Pierre) hopes to escape after three years of seeing and doing horrific acts, and makes a desperate plea to Chris to leave with them.
Chris weighs the situation. After all, Pika threatened her life, but, as the Pastor’s daughter, she believes in the possibility of redemption, even for the most damaged souls. She tells him about a cardboard piano that her father made for her from scraps and, because she was disappointed to not have a real piano, that she destroyed it. Undaunted, her father put it back together to teach her that broken things can be fixed, implying that Pika could also be repaired. In this scene, the connection between Chris and Pika is woven with great care and sincerity by Dunn and Pierre, allowing us to let down our guard, just a bit, about the inherent danger, believing that the two young people might forge a tenuous partnership. However, circumstances change rapidly when a machine gun-toting soldier (Michael Ofori) enters the church in search of Pika and tries to take advantage of Adiel. In the span of an explosive few minutes, the lives of all four are drastically altered.
Fifteen years have passed when the second act opens in the refurbished church. Pastor Paul (Ofori) and his wife Ruth (Cognata) are celebrating their wedding anniversary with lukewarm tea when Chris wanders in, carrying a parcel and looking lost. When she reveals that her late father built the church and she wishes to plant a tree containing his ashes, Ruth is excited to ask Chris questions, to clear up rumors about an event that took place there on the eve of the millennium. It is uncomfortable for Chris, but eventually all of the layers are peeled away to get at the truth of what happened and who’s who. Enter Francis (Pierre), a young man who is obviously not welcomed by the Pastor because he is a homosexual. However, Ruth has invited him to visit, and Francis recognizes Chris as Adiel’s good friend, further thickening the plot.
In act two, three of the four actors take on new characters and, although they are descended from the happenings of the first act, it takes a level of concentration to sort out the connections with clarity. That being said, Cognata, Ofori, and Pierre do an excellent job of differentiating between their roles, augmented by the work of costume designer Leslie Held. The personalities they portray demand a broad range, with Ofori taking the largest leap. His noxious, strutting soldier, although seen only briefly, is fearsome and makes a searing impression, while Paul presents as a man of faith and loving husband who tries to do the best for his flock, until the denouement when his demons arise.
Cognata is feisty and self-assured as Adiel, and compassionate and devoted as Ruth. Pierre’s turn as Pika is nuanced, showing him as dangerous, numb, and remorseful. Dunn has a longer arc to travel as Chris, going from passionate teen to the adult woman who has been living with her ongoing grief. Her facial expressions provide a road map for the journey; love, fear, shock, anger, resignation – they’re all clearly on display in Dunn’s compelling characterization. She is totally present and a key cog in the play’s machinery, but when all is said and done, it isn’t about her. Chris is the outsider, the foreigner whose family came to the country with the best of intentions, yet departed with broken dreams, forever changed.
Photo credit: Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures (Rachel Cognata, Marge Dunn)
Nope, this was a victory of style over substance. All of these services are widely available in one form or another from countless existing providers.
Instead, in the absence of a novel product and as global smartphone sales begin to droop, when it comes to innovation Cook seems to be tossing in the towel.
Apple is seeking to prop up revenues by using its continued market heft — with an installed base of 900m iPhones and 1.4bn devices — to offer a mish-mash of bundled services.
Under the circumstances that may be understandable, but has it really come to this? How did the mighty Apple, pioneering creator of cutting-edge consumer tech, inventor of the iPad, the iPhone and the Apple Mac, find itself reduced to a middle of the road, middle-aged brand flogging credit cards, bland TV shows and subscriptions to Men’s Health and InStyle magazines?
To be fair, it’s not difficult to sympathise with the invidious position in which Cook finds himself.
After over a decade of relentless growth the global smartphone market, which fuelled Apple’s spectacular rise to become the world’s first trillion dollar company last August — after a 50,000 per cent rise in its share price since it first listed in 1980 — has turned.
It is now shrinking with global smartphone sales expected to fall to 1.8 billion units in 2019, a drop of 3 per cent from 2018, according to figures from CCS Insight.
Apple’s smartphone market share has also fallen from 23 per cent in late 2011 to 18 per cent at the end of 2018 as it has struggled against Chinese rivals like Huawei and Xiaomi. They produce similar products at lower prices, especially popular in key growth markets like China and India.
Apple has made strategic missteps too. Far from staying at the leading edge, Apple seems to have missed the boat in one of the few remaining hot areas of the smartphone market: 5G, a technology that will offer download speeds up to 100 times faster than existing devices when it is rolled out.
About 220 million 5G phones will be sold in 2020, rising to 930 million in 2023 to account for almost half of all mobile phone sales, according to CCS.
Yet while key competitors Samsung, Oppo, Xiaomi and Huawei have all unveiled plans for new 5G phones in recent weeks, Apple is not expected to follow suit until late 2020. That hands rivals an 18-month head start, a virtual aeon in the fast-moving and hyper-competitive global handset market.
So what happens next?
Make no mistake. Apple remains a fearsome company with some brilliant people. With a more than $US890 billion market cap, it remains the world’s second biggest company with colossal firepower to pull off transformative deals.
Sales of wearables such as the Apple Watch and AirPods headphones are still performing well, rising by more than 50 per cent in the final three months of 2018.
Its services division, which includes sales of apps and music, increased revenues to $US10.8 billion in the same period, up more than 25 per cent on a year ago.
But iPhones still contribute the bulk of revenue; nearly 62 per cent of the total. There is no obvious killer product on the horizon that could conceivably replace this.
Can Cook’s new strategy of focusing on services work? Perhaps, but it’s hard to see quite why it should. If Apple is no longer about making bold bets on cutting-edge design and empowering, intuitive technology, then what exactly is it?
And if it can’t sustain its position as a technology leader, then it is surely destined to fail as a provider of content, financial services and video games. Naturally, it might take a while for the rot to set in.
Cook might yet surprise us with some new piece of genius dreamed up by Apple’s cleverest developers, but there is little sign of it yet. Certainly as Apple, the company founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniack in a California garage in 1976, fights to regain its mojo, Oprah Winfrey seems like an unlikely saviour.