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  • Writer's pictureDanny Jarabek

Why A24 Needs To Show Up at the 2023 Oscars

In just 10 years, A24 has become one of the most recognizable brands outside of the major studio system operating as an independent production and distribution company focusing primarily on the arthouse sector of the industry. If you are even vaguely familiar with who they are, the first characteristic you will recognize is that A24 is much more (and much different) than the vast majority of companies working in the film industry today. With the rapid evolutions and obstacles that cinema has faced in recent years, the arthouse scene has taken a major brunt of the blow from pandemic-induced shifts in film consumption away from traditional theatrical windows and toward a streaming model that promotes easily accessible entertainment that has made original, independent content extremely difficult to produce, market, and sell. Due to the restructuring of the production pipeline alongside insurance limitations and health and safety protocols induced by the pandemic, only cash fluid major motion studios with financial reserves have been able to scrap together moderate success at the box office as they continue to attempt to revive their COVID-19 losses. Despite these challenges, independent companies are continuing to fight for creative outlets to finance original stories in the age of existing IP and franchise dominance, and A24 is one of the most interesting case studies to investigate.

Studios around the world are constantly fighting to be the winning distribution company. This top prize, however, has surprisingly had the reverse effect—nominations in the last 2-3 years have been far outnumbered by what many critics aThe independent studio was founded in 2012 with the goal to distribute unique points of view in film and to allow creative filmmakers the space to exercise their boldest visons. This platform has given birth to 100+ releases over the last decade produced or distributed under the A24 logo, a logo which has come to represent much more than itself—it has become a symbol of the arthouse, a struggling film sector that is being valiantly embraced by a target audience of young, niche cinephiles who see hope in the marketing strategy that companies like A24 have employed. This strategy of supporting films outside of the mainstream that have come to be defined by a distinct aura of high cinematic expression is akin to that of studios like Focus or Searchlight, but what has separated A24 is their ability to attract a young crowd through merchandise branding, social media interaction, and underground marketing. This contributed to a meteoric rise that certainly impacted the industry at large making massive waves just four years into its existence when they won Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards with Barry Jenkins’s poignant coming of age film, Moonlight. In the previous 10 years, A24’s films have respectably accumulated over 30 nominations, and a high point of Moonlight’s victory that should have catapulted the studio into annual contention year in and year out with bright, young filmmakers clamoring to collaborate with the newest face in the list of Best Picture nd fans alike would consider snubs. This past year, the only nomination that A24 received was for Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth. The previous year, Minari was able to break through for six nominations including an inspired win for Yuh-Jung Youn, but we must keep in mind the dramatically altered landscape of that year with many films being delayed. In 2020, despite a lineup that included a variety of acclaimed films such as The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Midsommar, The Farewell, The Lighthouse, and Uncut Gems, again only one nomination was scored (Jarin Blaschke’s cinematography in The Lighthouse). This streak of underperformance sparks many questions considering just six short years ago, the company reigned supreme at the end of infamous night when Moonlight was eventually presented the correct award.

Now looking at 2022 where the landscape of cinema is still precarious, theaters are still struggling to break even outside of MCU tentpoles, and arthouse films are as hard as ever to produce in any capacity let alone at profit. Nevertheless, one film has defied all odds: enter Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. Directed by the partnership of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert collectively known as “Daniels” and produced and distributed by A24, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once has dramatically exceeded all expectations especially for an indie film in this post-pandemic era. The film is a true (and rare) exception to the belief that independent movies can succeed at the box office through word-of-mouth marketing and through the rallying of young audiences. Through the almost guerilla-like marketing strategies that A24 has heralded in contrast to traditional studio advertising, the film managed to eclipse all projections and become one of A24’s highest grossing films ever. This remarkable success brings A24 and its shining star of maximalist style into the limelight directly adjacent to a string of Academy Award let-downs.

In recent years, many questions could be asked of A24’s effectiveness in campaigning their movies to award season success and whether their “arthouse cinephile brand” has grown too niche to be impactful at the Oscars and reach wider audiences. In addition to the large-scale existential threats that independent cinema has faced, A24 itself had been speculated to be the rumor of a potential sale at over 2 billion dollars to Apple just last year. Nonetheless, the company ultimately chose to remain independent and recommit themselves to their original vision of supporting creative filmmakers and rather than selling and becoming a reluctant absorption into the streaming wars corporate content maelstrom, A24 funded expansion through a large equity investment of $225 million. This expansion, this vision, and this commitment from A24 is a promise to the creatives they fund, the cinephiles that follow them, and the films they produce that they believe arthouse cinema is here to stay. That commitment runs through their star-studded 2022 lineup that features 8 selections at Cannes and a multitude of auteurs with legitimate award season aspirations. However, none will loom as large come February as Everything, Everywhere, All at Once which has taken the film community by storm. The film has captured the zeitgeist of audiences all over the world, and the plethora of questions that have been centered toward A24’s ability to push their films past niche audiences and into mainstream awards contention will be revisited once again come the 2023 awards season. With hopes at original screenplay, editing, lead actress, and supporting performances, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once should be a major contender if they are able to rekindle their 2016 success that rode Moonlight into stardom.

A24’s presence at the Oscar’s will justify maintaining their independence, nominations will justify their first major loan investment in their existence, and wins will justify the role of arthouse cinema in a post-pandemic paradigm. I believe after all of the obstacles that we as a global society have faced in the last 2+years, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once’s message of unbridled kindness across the multiverse is the universal human story that the world needs to hear right now on the biggest stage in the industry. Whether A24 can answer the call and drive its contenders to the finish line this year, only time will tell.

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