A24 covets Oscar haul, but its executives remain tight-lipped about Spotlight – Deadline

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

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

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

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

Disney and its subsidiary ABC seized the moment to stress The little Mermaid and Universal ran an ad for its nuclear movie Oppenheimerbut otherwise there seemed a strange silence about the next year.

Has the influx of new (mainly overseas) Oscar voters energized the Academy? Or affected its taste?

Not really, but improved ratings suggest the show will be around in 2028. Ratings rose 12% this year to 18.7 million. The lowest ever was 10.5 million in 2021.

HBO scheduled the season finale of their zombie drama The last of us against the Oscars, a further reminder that awards shows are no longer daunting competitions. Advertising rates are higher for the Super Bowl or postseason football.

RELATED: Oscars TV review: Ceremony tries to move past slapstick with traditional but cheerful history-making night

A survey of 4,400 moviegoers by The Wall Street Journal suggested that few viewers had even heard of the Oscar contenders this year, except Avatar/Top Gun/Black Panther “audience film.” Competitors like Triangle of Triangles may score at Cannes, but attract no support among Academy voters.

Still, media coverage of the Oscar competition was surprisingly strong in a year when movies like Women speak or After sun set records for empty seats. In previous years, the media buzz focused on Oscar campaigns – complaints about Harvey Weinstein’s tactical sniping or about the big party expenses.

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 for the Oscars.

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

After Moonlight‘s success I proposed a meeting six years ago and was quickly rejected, only to be invited back hours later, but with new rules. All three partners were to participate (Daniel Katz, David Frenkel and John Hodges), whose backgrounds were primarily financial (Hodges has since left the firm).

Fine by me, but when I arrived at the company’s grungy headquarters in Lower Manhattan, 20 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 was not to ask questions, but rather 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 that I had been held responsible for putting together: Being There, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Harold & Maude among them.

The questions were smart, but then when I started asking about some of A24’s unlikely successes, the curtain came down. Movies like Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine), Ex machine (Alex Garland) and Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) was off the table for discussion. So were budgets and media strategy (“we prefer guerilla marketing to ad buys,” Katz muttered).

On the way out, there were profuse thanks and friendly comments about future get-togethers, which never took place. “We want to tell you about our television plans,” enthused an employee, who was then shut down.

“This is not so much a company as some kind of indie mafia,” an A24 executive assured me. “We’re really nice people, but public attention scares us. Besides, nobody wants to know about success in the indie world. The indie world is all about failure. Ask anyone who’s been here.”

I tried asking, but was waiting for a return invite, maybe after next year’s hits.

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