His name is A24 and since last night it’s officially the new powerhouse to beat in the motion picture landscape. The 2023 Oscars have in fact marked a triumph across the board for the production and distribution company founded by Daniel Katz, David Fenkel and John Hodges. EEAAO (Everything Everywhere All At Oncand and the whale were the great protagonists of the statuettes, with to chase All Quiet on the Western Front. The first two are right on the A24the new reality that is putting the Hollywood that was in check, creating a new way of conceiving cinematographic fruition and creation.
That dream born on an Italian highway
The A24 was born in Italy. Strange right? Yet, it is so. It was 2012 and Daniel Katz was in Italy, managing the Caput Mundion the iconic (and often cursed by many of us) Rome-Teramo highway. “This is the time to do it” Katz said to himself, as he has continued to explain over the years. Katz was then working for Guggenheim Partners, in the economics arm, Fenkel, was president and co-founder of Oscilloscope Laboratories, while Hodges was involved in Big Beach. They gave up everything to create this strange new venture, initially called A24 films, with the aim of gaining a position in the distribution sector. A goal they achieved in just a few years since in addition to distribution, he decided to also deal with the production of films for the big screen and TV series, effectively splitting the market in half.
An impossible bet won (and triumphant at the 2023 Oscars) by doing a very simple, seemingly trivial thing but in reality increasingly difficult: propose alternative narratives to the mainstream onescombine the experimentation, imagination and audacity of independent cinema, with a visual dimension able to amaze the public, without being excessively niche, but rather tickle more targets at the same time. All this, however, without falling into pure and simple commercialism. In short, doing everything that once, in the 90s, seemed the prerogative of Miramax, Fox Searchlight or Orion Pictures, with directors like Tarantino, the Wachowski sisters or Zemeckis or Verhoeven. In our minds we probably think that the distribution houses are much less important than the production ones. The latter effectively put on the bank the money with which directors, actors, effects people can create the dreams on the big and small screen with which we try to entertain ourselves and make our lives less boring.
But the reality is that though distribution companies have an incredibly important task: they take care of creating the trailers, the posters, in fact they buy the films in their version for the public, they take care of positioning them on the market, making them attractive for the reference target and also for the press. From the outset, the A24 presented itself as something different from what is already happening on the market, with an aggressive and original tactic, trying to strike the spectator from a visual point of view to captivate their curiosity and sympathy, offering products clearly connected to independent cinema, but treated in detail, with big names appeal and very current themes. Even more indicative of its nature and composition comma is the fact that the A24 was founded in New York, a cinematographic symbol and temple of indie culture and not in the much renowned but now really overcrowded Los Angeles.
“We are not Hollywood” it has been the distinctive feature of the A24 since the very beginningwho showed up with very clear ideas already with A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III by Roman Coppola. At the same time, he released one of the last true generational cults of modern cinema: Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine. Put this way, it would seem that her identity was already limited to some specific film genres. No sir, because you know perfectly well how much a variety of the offer is always fundamental, Katz, Fenkel and Hodges would later also be interested in the science fiction, thriller, in short, they would have ranged everywhere, I talk about any idea to distribute that could allow him to consolidate his name in the eyes of an ever-changing audience. Here is the intuition behind the success of the A24: audiences grew tired of the sterility offered by the major labellives in a semantic and semiotic world interconnected between the videogame universe, TV series, comics, social networks that Disney and co. have only occasionally shown that they want to involve and make their own.
The A24 is quality, authorship and fearless creativity
Ex Machina preceded Room (which earned Brie Larson an Oscar) and then The Whitch. The A24 then began dealing with Apple and Prime Video, to involve stars such as Scarlett Johansson, James Franco or Robert Pattinson, with the involvement of highly prestigious directors such as Baumbach, Egoyan, Gus Van Sant, Villeneuve. An absolutely fundamental factor is the great climate of collaboration and listening to the authors, their vision, in perfect contrast to what Marvel, Disney, Warner and so they have done in the last fifteen years, imposing an ever more stringent dictatorship on the part of producers and distributors over personal vision. A24 surprises you with colorful, strange films, with touching and atypical stories, with a creative audacity that this year, in fact, with EEAAO captivated the world. More than a genre film, a film of genresable to tell us about depression, minorities, multiverse, mother-daughter relationship, in short, a bit of everything, seasoned with anal plugs, martial arts and grotesque irony.
Which of the Hollywood giants would have ever allowed a film like this to come out in the form in which EEAAO he’s out? None, that’s right. And it is in this lack of fear, this respect for its audience that A24 has built its success. Moonlight. Here is the turning point. Indeed, in 2016 the A24 decided that distribution must be a starting point, also goes into production, and was immediately successful with audiences and critics. Jenkins’ film wins the Oscar for Best Picture and everything seems to go downhill from there. But is it really? Because in the middle there is the Covid-19 pandemic that puts everyone in danger, the small screen that is a resource but also an enemy, the public that no longer wants to leave the house. However, the A24 does not give upgives us the Sacrifice of the Sacred Deer by Lanthimos, Mid90s by Hill, gives a nod to the millennials and together with Generation Z, to those who are tired of the usual things but are not even necessarily interested in b-movies that are too kitsch like the saga of Sharknado echo.
A24 creates an offer that can include multiple generations intelligently and multiple tastes at the same time. It proves it with The Last Black Man in San Francisco, C’Mon C’Monand then the beautiful the Lighthouse. Has authorship found a new home? Yes, and is free from chaotic executives or last-minute second thoughts. Hodges left the A24 in 2018 but that didn’t stop an unstoppable race. Alone Macbeth of their films fails, Waves by Shults e Men of Garland are very popular. Then here comes the rebirth of Brendan Fraser in Venice this year and the madness of the Daniels who last night took a total of 8 Oscars, the most important. Historical evening. But now what will happen? Now we wait Beau is scared with Joaquin Phoenixthe new season of the idol on HBO extension and all that the A24 will give us as it expands an empire that perhaps (maybe) could also save the cinemas that have now become giants of clay.
Because the A24 moves everywhere, has filled that void that the extreme commercialization of the majors, slaves of the sagas, of the cinecomics and of old infinitely recycled universes has left: that of innovation and novelty. All while also winning the race against too high costs, the forced gigantism of film production. With Avatars 2 James Cameron won his bet, but by now it is clear that you can’t always go to theaters with at least 200 million in investment to double. EEAAO it cost 25 million, he collected 110. After all, how much money does it take to do something good? All the money in the world is not worth a good idea, a good script, directors with clear ideas and free to express them and actors who are given the opportunity to experiment. At the same time, new faces and new directors are valued for a new audience. The A24 makes cinema, that something that had disappeared from our radars for a while.