The big winner this Oscars season was A24, the independent, New York-based studio behind the films that won nine of the 23 Academy Awards handed out last night (March 12). Its film Everything Everywhere All at Once took home seven Oscars including the awards for Best Picture and Best Actress, for Michelle Yeoh’s performance. Brendan Fraser, who starred in the The Whale, also an A24 film, was named Best Actor, while the film also won best makeup and hairstyling.
A24’s film division specializes in horror and dramedies. Its television side recently branched into dramas after focusing on comedy after it was founded in 2012. Everything Everywhere All at Once earned $107 million in the box office, making it A24’s highest grossing film in its 11-year history. Other A24 films that earned nominations included Close, Causeway, Aftersun and Marcel the Shell With Shoes On.
Hollywood has been criticized in recent years for prioritizing sequels and franchise films over original productions. Many of the highest grossing films in 2022 were part of an existing series, including Avatar, Jurassic Park, Black Panther and Despicable Me. And big studios don’t seem to be deviating from this strategy. Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) is planning on further building out its franchises, including Harry Potter, Batman, Superman and Game of Thrones, chief executive David Zaslav said in an earnings call with investors earlier this year. The Walt Disney (DIS) Company is making continued investments in its Star Wars and Marvel properties.
But A24’s big wins at the Oscars prove there is still interest in small, original films.
“It’s almost like a return to independent distribution across the whole movie tapestry, which is focused mostly on big studio movies,” said Jason Squire, professor emeritus at the University of Southern California’s film school. “All of this is very good news for the business.”
The pandemic led to small theaters around the country closing, but it also boosted streaming, which is tailor made for niche movies like A24’s products.
“Now, A24 is a major player,” he said. To keep the momentum going, “they need strong financial underpinning and to keep applying taste to movies going forward.” The hype around A24’s films will aid in securing additional financing, he said. Last year, A24 received $225 million in funds, led by Stripes, a venture capital and private equity company.
A24 was founded by film industry veterans Daniel Katz, David Fenkel and John Hodges. Previously, Katz launched a film financing division at Guggenheim Partners; Fenkel worked as president of film distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories, which he also founded; and Hodges headed production and development at Big Beach Films, an independent production company. Katz and Fenkel are still with A24, as chairman and CEO, respectively. Hodges now works for Jax Media, which produces Netflix (NFLX)’s Emily in Paris.
Earlier this month, A24 bought Cherry Lane Theater, an Off Broadway performance space in New York, for $10 million, the New York Times reported. It plans to show plays, film screenings and other live entertainment. A24 has not disclosed if it plans to remain independent in the future. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A24 is preparing to release nine films, five of which have release dates set for before August. The movies include Beau Is Afraid, Past Lives and The Iron Claw, starring Zac Efron. The studio also has a television division, which produced HBO’s hit series Euphoria, starring Zendaya.