A24, the scrappy indie studio that has built a brand for itself as a home for hip and ground-breaking films, triumphed over its deeper-pocketed rivals at the Oscars on Sunday. It achieved a leading nine wins, topping that of its nearest competitor, Netflix, which had to settle for six trophies. Plus, A24 not only captured Best Picture for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” but also pulled off the incredibly rare feat of winning every major acting category, with three statuettes for the cast of the head-spinning adventure film, the other recognizing Brendan Fraser’s work in ” The Whale”.
But don’t expect the studio to ride a victory lap. Co-founders David Fenkel and Daniel Katz (who named their store after the highway that connects Rome to Teramo) shun the limelight and have almost no interviews or profiles done, though they’ve certainly been asked. Rather, the indie moguls say they prefer to let their films speak for themselves — an anomaly in Hollywood, where executives usually push each other aside to claim credit for successes.
On Sunday, the highest-stakes night in A24’s history, director of film Noah Sacco and director of advertising Nicolette Aizenberg refused to be photographed on the carpet. When Sacco was approached by Variety to mark the occasion with a photo, which executives such as Bob Iger of Disney and David Zaslav of Warner Bros. Discovery had already done, he deferred to Aizenberg. She politely declined.
“No matter what my work wife says,” Sacco said before walking into the auditorium.
With “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” A24 propelled an offbeat metaverse-spanning adventure film into a box office sensation, taking in more than $100 million worldwide—an amazing result considering the financial difficulties facing the arthouse film industry . Then it turned a film dramatically removed from typical awards bait — a martial arts-infused yarn that featured characters sporting hot dog hands and brandishing weapon-based dildos — into an Oscar juggernaut. Its seven wins are the most by any best picture winner since 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire” (which won eight).
Admittedly, A24 has suffered some setbacks on the way to its golden night. Competitors complain that the studio spends too much to market its films and that its blockbuster successes, such as “Everything Everywhere,” “Moonlight” and “Hereditary,” paper a long list of money losers. (Have you ever heard of “Under the Silver Lake” or “When You Finish Saving the World”? A24 also produced those movies.) But it has taken away a part of the movie business that had seemed to be geared toward grandparents and the elderly tastemakers and injected a youthful giddiness by betting on new talent.
In 2020, facing a difficult landscape for theatrical distribution, A24 began exploring a buyout, valuing itself at $2.5 billion to $3 billion. Whether the offers were not to its liking or it chose to chart a different course, the company ultimately decided to end sales talks. Instead, it announced a $225 million equity investment from a fundraising round led by limited company Stripes. A24 also brought in its first ever CFO — JB Lockhart, the NBA’s CFO — to help find a way for the company to grow organically.
TV is a prime target, especially after the studio delivered HBO the provocative teen drama “Euphoria,” a ratings hit. On the horizon is the expensive “The Idol,” also on HBO, starring Lily-Rose Depp and the Weeknd. After that is “The Curse” on Showtime, from the Safdie brothers and Nathan Fielder and starring Emma Stone. On the film front, there is Ari Aster’s mainstream drama “Beau Is Afraid” with Joaquin Phoenix. A24 is also looking into the live events space with the recent acquisition of historic Off Broadway theater Cherry Lane, and is delving into music with an investment in Larry Jackson’s startup Gamma.
On Sunday, even A24’s competitors appeared to acknowledge their Oscar performance. Tom Quinn, co-founder of Neon, an indie studio that has also made a name for itself by distributing more challenging and avant-garde fare, compared what A24 was doing to his company’s success in wanting 2019’s “Parasite” to win for the best image .
“I want to go to their party to celebrate if they win,” Quinn confessed on the carpet.
He argued that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” showed that there is still an audience for art house theatrical releases – something that has been called into question in the wake of box office failures such as “Tár”, “The Father” and “Armageddon Hour”. .” Part of the reason A24 thrives where others fail is that its movies attract younger audiences who aren’t as worried about COVID as older moviegoers are; which helped lift ticket sales for “Everything Everywhere.”
“It’s amazing,” Quinn said. “It is a real theatrical success. It’s a real piece of cinema. It works on so many different levels. I’m all in.”
And A24’s triumph on Sunday was achieved despite competition from streamers such as Netflix. The tech giant has done a lot to elevate the way movies are made and watched. It’s also spent lavishly while trying so far unsuccessfully to score best picture statuettes for the likes of “Roma,” “The Irishman” and this year’s “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
“It means that the streamers are once again not winning,” says Tom Bernard, co-founder of Sony Pictures Classics, an indie studio that, like A24, still releases movies in theaters.