A24 covets Oscar Haul, but the leaders remain skittish about Spotlight – Deadline

Now that the noise has died down, were there any useful takeaways from the Oscars?

If you ask the leaders of A24, the distributor who won six categories, their answer would be the same as six years ago when Moonlight was the surprise winner. “Can’t think of anything to say,” they said.

A24 likes to surround its wins with the sounds of silence, as they made numbingly clear when I last sat down with them (they resist sit-downs: more below).

But there were, in fact, some questions to ask after this year’s Oscars. Would the field hopefully be encouraged next year? Not really, according to early evidence: Witness the strange absence of hype for future Oscar show hits, even on the pre-show.

Disney and its subsidiary ABC took advantage of the moment to argue The little Mermaid and Universal placed an ad for its nuclear movie Oppenheimerbut otherwise there seemed to be a strange silence about next year.

Has the infusion of new (mostly foreign) Oscar voters boosted the Academy? Or affected the taste?

Not really, but improved ratings suggest the show will be around until 2028. Reviews are up 12% this year to 18.7 million. The all-time low was 10.5 million in 2001.

HBO has scheduled the season finale of its zombie drama The last of us to the Oscars, a further reminder that awards shows are no longer scary competition. Ad prices are higher for the Super Bowl or postseason football.

RELATED: Oscars TV Review: Ceremony tries to get past the clap with conventional but fun, history-making night

A survey of 4,400 moviegoers by the Wall Street Journal suggested that few viewers had even heard of the Oscar nominees this year, other than the avatar/Top gun/Black Panther “public films.” Contenders like Triangle of sadness could score at Cannes, but attract zero following among Academy voters.

Still, media coverage of the Oscar competition has been surprisingly strong in a year that saw movies like it Women talk or After sun set records for empty seats. In years gone by, the buzz has centered on Oscar campaigns — complaints about Harvey Weinstein’s tactical snipers or over the big party spending.

But the campaigns themselves weren’t news this year: Steven Spielberg’s presence seemed shadowy, and of course neither Tom Cruise nor James Cameron showed up at the Oscars.

Which brings us back to the mysteries of A24. While other indie chefs are ubiquitous at festivals and premieres – witness the garrulous presence of Sony Classics’ Tom Bernard and Michael Barker – the founders of A24 cherish their invisibility.

After Moonlight‘s success Six years ago I proposed a meeting and was hastily rejected, only to be invited again hours later, but with new rules. All three partners should be present (Daniel Katz, David Frenkel and John Hodges) whose background was primarily financial (Hodges has since left the company).

Fine, but when I arrived at the company’s dingy headquarters in lower Manhattan, twenty other members of the A24 staff also crowded into the conference room (no, there wasn’t enough coffee to go around). Katz made it clear in his introduction that I wasn’t allowed to ask questions, but that I was there to answer them.

A24 was still formulating its management strategy, it seemed, and I had to explain the origins of certain films – projects I’d been held responsible for putting together: Being There, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Harold & Maude Amongst them.

The questions were smart, but when I started asking about some of A24’s unlikely successes, the curtain fell. Movies like Spring breakers (Harmonie Korine), Ex Machine (Alex Garland) and Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) were off the table for discussion. So did budgets and media strategy (“we prefer guerrilla marketing to ad buying,” Katz muttered).

On the way out there were copious thanks and warm comments about future meetings, which never happened. “We’d like to tell you about our TV plans,” said one enthusiastic employee, who then closed.

“This isn’t so much a business as an indie mafia of sorts,” an A24 executive assured me. “We are really nice people, but the public attention is driving us crazy. Plus, no one wants to know about success in the indie world. The indie world is all about failure. Ask anyone who’s been here.

Tried asking, but waiting for another invite, maybe after next year’s hits.

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