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For Your Consideration: Breaking Down the 2016 Oscar Race, Distributor By Distributor

For Your Consideration: Breaking Down the 2016 Oscar Race, Distributor By Distributor

READ MORE: Anne Thompson’s Oscar Predictions

It’s December and the folks bidding for this year’s Oscar glory have finally laid their cards out for all to see. So Indiewire has decided to break things down, distributor by distributor. Here’s a rundown of 20 studios or specialty distributors (in alphabetical order), each with at least a minimal shot at a major nomination.


Track Record: The upstart indie distributor has only been around for a couple seasons, and landed a few deserved notices last year for “A Most Violent Year” and “Under The Skin” — just not at the Oscars, where A24 has yet to receive a nomination..

2016 MVP: It’s looking likely A24 will make quite the entrance when it comes to the company’s first year as an Oscar player. Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room” is riding huge buzz since its film festival debut in September (where it won Toronto’s People Choice Award — usually a heavy good luck charm for things to come). It’s the frontrunner to win best actress for Brie Larson, and could factor into many other major categories, including best picture.

Other Possibilities: “Room” will not be A24’s only Oscar nominee. Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary “Amy” was a huge commercial and critical hit this summer and is the frontrunner to win best documentary feature awards left and right. And while they are relatively much longer shots, “Ex-Machina,” “The End of the Tour” and “While We’re Young” have all popped up on a few nomination lists — though the Oscars seems like a tall order at this point.

Bleecker Street

Track Record: This is the company’s first time at bat, with “Danny Collins” marking the inaugural Bleecker Street release this past March.

2016 MVP: Jay Roach’s “Trumbo” has been doing very well so far, with Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren receiving Golden Globe, SAG and Critics Choice nominations for their work in the film.  Roach’s take on the life of Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo also has a shot in a couple below-the-line categories. 

Other Possibilities: Though most seem to be associating it with Netflix, “Beasts of No Nation” was a team effort with Bleecker Street (who released it theatrically as a partnership with the digital platform), and it could get a few nominations. Blythe Danner also has a reason to be a little hopeful that her first Oscar nomination is finally coming her way for Bleecker’s “I’ll See You In My Dreams” — which was released to huge box office for a film of its size this summer.

Broad Green Pictures

Record: Another newbie to the race, with their first release coming back in June.

2016 MVP: “99 Homes” has emerged a surprise contender for best supporting actor, where Michael Shannon has received nominations at the Golden Globes, SAGs and Critics Choice. It seems like Shannon is the safest bet to give the indie company a rare first Oscar nomination during their first year at bat.

Possibilities: One of the biggest shockers of the SAG Award nominations was Sarah Silverman’s best actress nod for “I Smile Back,” making her a definite dark horse for an Oscar bid. Kudos are already deserved for Broad Green getting “Smile” and “Homes” such major precursor love.


Track Record: Last year, the studio’s MVP “Into The Woods” disappointed, but Disney has consistently landed a best picture nominee the last few years (“Lincoln,” “Up,” “Toy Story 3,” “The Help”). That said, the Mouse House has never actually won the top prize.

2016 MVP: “Bridge of Spies.” A few years after “Lincoln” arguably brought Disney the closest it has ever come to winning best picture, Steven Spielberg is back at bat and should at least land the company a handful of major nominations.

Other Possibilities: It’s been a while since one of Disney and Pixar’s collaborations made it into the best picture race, but “Inside Out” stands a very good shot at doing just that. It’s also heavily favored to win the best animated feature Oscar, where it could be competing against another Disney/Pixar film, “The Good Dinosaur.” Of course, there’s also “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (the one remaining question mark). It may be a long shot for best picture, but should definitely rack up quite a few nominations in the technical categories.

Focus Features

Track Record: Focus has been regularly present in the best picture category in the past decade, and has won back-to-back best actor Oscars for Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”).

2016 MVP: “The Danish Girl.” The focus will likely be on an Eddie Redmayne-led biopic for the second year running, with his turn in Tom Hooper’s take on one of the first people to receive gender reassignment surgery definitely in the acting races for Redmayne and his co-star Alicia Vikander. But it’s not the sure thing “Everything” was.

Other Possibilities: While “Suffragette” hasn’t been the hit with critics or audiences that many suspected, it still has a shot at a few nominations — most notably Carey Mulligan for best actress.


Track Record: Its indie-focused sibling Fox Searchlight has had better luck as of late, with big Fox being shut out of the best picture category two years running. The company’s last winner in the category was 1971’s “The French Connection (though it internationally distributed best picture winners “Braveheart” and “Titanic” back in the nineties).

2016 MVP: Big Fox is poised to make a major return as an Oscar player this year with a genuine triple threat that could dominate the nominations. Currently, Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” seems like the MVP and will definitely manage a major haul of nominations — from best picture to most of the technical categories. Close behind is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “The Revenant,” which is also a very likely nominee for best picture, and a frontrunner to win best actor for Leonardo DiCaprio.

Other Possibilities: There’s also David O. Russell’s “Joy,” which hasn’t been a critical darling but may still get Jennifer Lawrence her fourth Oscar nomination (and she’s only 25 years old).

Fox Searchlight

Track record: Little Fox has experienced an epic few years at the Oscars, winning the last two best picture trophies (for “12 Years a Slave” and “Birdman”), not to mention four additional Oscars last year for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

2016 MVP: “Brooklyn.” John Crowley’s love story has been amassing many fans since it premiered at Sundance back in January, and seems very likely to continue that all the way to Oscar night with best picture, best actress and best adapted screenplay nominations looking close to assured.

Other Possibilities: While Searchlight doesn’t quite have the strong slate that has led it to major Oscar glory the past few years, Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth” could rack up a few acting nods for Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and especially Jane Fonda, respectively. “He Named Me Malala” is also a contender in the documentary feature race.

IFC Films/Sundance Selects

Track record: “Boyhood” obviously was a huge deal for the distributor last year, though otherwise nominations have generally been rare for IFC/Sundance Selects.  “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” “In The Loop” all nabbed screenplay nominations, and Marion Cotillard helped make last year even sweeter with her surprise nod for “Two Days, One Night.”

2016 MVP: “45 Years.” If there’s any justice in awards season, Andrew Haigh’s layered and powerful relationship drama will bring nominations for actors Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.

Other Possibilities: None, really, but “The Stanford Prison Experiment” and “Queen of Earth” could land on a few top 10 lists.


Track record: Since winning the top prize for “Crash” ten years ago, Lionsgate has only had a few major Oscar contenders (most notably “Precious” in 2009).

2016 MVP: “Sicario.” Denis Villeneuve’s thriller has the reviews and box office to push it into a few Oscar races, particularly best supporting actor (Benicio Del Toro) and best cinematography (the still-unrewarded Roger Deakins).

Other Possibilities: “Shaun The Sheep Movie” could be an animated feature nominee, though “Freeheld” — which seemed like a major contender on paper — is a nonentity at this point.


Track Record: Magnolia won the best documentary
Oscar for “Man on Wire,” and has many other nominations in the category
(“Enron,” “No End In Sight,” “Food, Inc,” etc).

2016 MVP: Sean Baker’s “Tangerine” will almost certainly land on many critics’
top 10 lists (and already has quite a few Gotham Awards and Spirit Award
nominations). Oscar nominations will be tough to pull off, but people will be fighting for it.

possibilities: That’s about it.


Track Record: This will be the streaming giant’s first attempt at becoming an awards season player.

2016 MVP: “Beasts of No Nation.”
As previously noted, Netflix collaborated with Bleecker Street to release Cary Fukunaga’s latest film in theaters — on the same day it launched the film online. That makes for an experimental distribution model when it comes to the Oscar race, but no one should underestimate Netflix at this point. The film also has Spirit Awards, Golden Globes and SAG Awards nominations already behind it.

Other Possibilities: Netflix-streamed documentaries “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and “Winter on Fire” are both hopefuls for the documentary feature Oscar.

Open Road

Track Record: Since launching in 2011, Open Road has only garnered a single Oscar nomination — for Dan Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler” script last year.

2016 MVP: “Spotlight.” And what an MVP it is. Open Road is the distributor behind the current Oscar frontrunner, with best picture, best director, best original screenplay nods all but certain. The big question with the film is whether it can manage any acting nominations, with Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams all on the bubble in their respective categories.

Other Possibilities: That’s probably it for Open Road this year, but it’s unlikely anyone is complaining over there.


Track Record: The studio has landed best picture nominees two years in a row with “Nebraska,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and “Selma.” Back in the nineties, they won the big prize three times in four years thanks to “Forrest Gump,” “Braveheart” and “Titanic.”

2016 MVP: “The Big Short.” It looked like Paramount would be largely sitting this year out until Adam McKay’s star-studded film made a last minute switch to this year’s slate. And so far, it’s looking like a very solid best for a best picture nomination.

Other possibilities: Charlie Kaufman’s animated “Anomalisa” is already a major critics darling thanks to the film festival circuit. Paramount isn’t releasing it until the final weekend of the year, but a best animated feature nomination seems like a pretty safe bet.


Track record: RADiUS has won the best documentary feature Oscar two years running thanks to “20 Feet From Stardom” and “Citizenfour.”

2016 MVP: “The Hunting Ground.” Kirby Dick’s documentary about rape crimes on U.S. college campuses could make it three in a row for the company, and the film could also be a contender for its powerful original song by Lady Gaga.

Other Possibilities: That’s pretty much it.

Roadside Attractions

Track Record: “Winter’s Bone” is definitely Roadside’s biggest Oscar success story in its six year history, but the company also managed to factor in with “Margin Call,” “Biutiful,” “Albert Nobbs” and “The Cove.”

2016 MVP:  “Love & Mercy.” The Brian Wilson biopic could find Paul Dano in the Oscar race for the first time though its Wilson-penned song (once thought to be a frontrunner to win) has been disqualified.

Other Possibilities: Bill Condon’s “Mr. Holmes” has a shot at getting Ian McKellen a best actor nomination, and the much-loved McKellen has been campaigning for it.


Track Record: “The Social Network,” “Moneyball” and “Zero Dark Thirty” have helped give Big Sony recent best picture nominations, but the company hasn’t won the big prize since “Gandhi” back in 1982.

2016 MVP: “Concussion,” though it’s not the ideal MVP. The Will Smith-led biopic of Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who fought against the NFL’s efforts to suppress his research on the brain damage suffered by football players, premiered at AFI FEST to so-so reviews. But it’s really the company’s only hope at a best picture contender — even if it’s a long shot.

Other Possibilities: “The Walk” and “Spectre” could definitely find a few nominations in the technical categories.

Sony Pictures Classics

Track Record: Sony Classics is coming off an excellent few years, winning the best actress trophy two years running (for Cate Blanchett and Julianne Moore, respectively) and having a major player in last year’s “Whiplash.”

2016 MVP: “Son of Saul.” Finding a best picture nominee among its slate might be tough this year, but Sony Classics is definitely the frontrunner to win the best foreign language film Oscar for this Hungarian import (which could pop up in a few other races as well).

Other Possibilities: Cate Blanchett, Maggie Smith and Lily Tomlin are all in contention for best actress nominations for “Truth,” “The Lady in the Van” and “Grandma,” respectively. They also have a dark horse in “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” which surprised many by leading the Gotham Award nominations.


Track record: Nominated for “Les Miserables” a few years back, Universal has otherwise not managed a best picture nomination since 2008’s “Frost/Nixon,” and hasn’t won since their back-to-back Dreamworks collaborations “A Beautiful Mind” and “Gladiator.”

2016 MVP: “Steve Jobs.”  Universal has been having an epic year at the box office thanks to “Jurassic World,” “Minions,” “Furious 7” and “Fifty Shades of Grey,” but lately that streak has stumbled a bit. Danny Boyle’s Apple founder biopic crashed when it expanded to wide release, leading some to question its Oscar potential. Nevertheless, it still seems like a solid bet for at least a few nods (including for actors Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet)

Other Possibilities: Late summer hit “Straight Outta Compton” has an outside shot at a best picture nomination, but it’s going to be an uphill battle for “Everest,” “By The Sea” and “Legend” — all of which looked like contenders on paper.

Warner Brothers Pictures

Track Record: WB has had a few very strong years thanks to “Argo,” “Gravity,” “Her” and “American Sniper.”

2016 MVP: George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” has been the story of the season so far, leading the Critics Choice Award nominations and racking up a few major Golden Globe nods. It’s definitely an atypical Oscar contender, but at this point it seems pretty set for best picture and best director nominations (not to mention pretty much every technical category).

Other Possibilities: Ryan Coogler’s Rocky-spinoff “Creed” has come out of nowhere to
appropriately become an underdog of the season. A best picture
nomination is still a bit of a tough call, but Sylvester Stallone has arguably vaulted to frontrunner
staus in the supporting actor category. There’s also Scott Cooper’s Whitey Bulger biopic “Black Mass,” which definitely has a solid shot of getting Johnny Depp his fourth Oscar nomination.

The Weinstein Company

Track Record: Harvey and company saw their hot streak led by “The Artist,” “The King’s Speech” and “Silver Linings Playbook” come to a bit of a halt, though “The Imitation Game” did get a handful of nominations last year.

2016 MVP: At this point, Todd Haynes’ “Carol.” It received absolutely glowing reviews out of Cannes and its leading ladies Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are more or less locks for acting nominations.

Other Possibilities: Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” doesn’t quite have the steam that his last two films did when it comes to Oscar season momentum, but a handful of nominations (including for Tarantino’s screenplay and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s performance) seem likely.

For full updated charts of all our Oscar predictions in all the feature film categories go here, and check out more predictions from Anne Thompson.

Peter Knegt is Indiewire’s Contributing Editor and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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