Though it became all too predictable by the end of awards season that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” would take home the Oscar for Best Picture, its win points to a surprising trend among the 2023 Academy Awards winners. A24 and Netflix, two studios that are barely a decade old, completely dominated at the Oscars, winning 15 out of the 24 categories. It seems awards season has ushered in a new guard.
Their feats being this year in particular comes as a surprise as the overall narrative around 2022 as a year in cinema has been celebrating the films that brought people back to movie theaters after the COVID-19 pandemic waned. While that had mostly been driven by nominees from major studios like “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Disney) and “Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount), one can see A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” as the happy medium that earned over $100 million at the box office, but still had the independent, arthouse chops of some regularly nominated production companies like Searchlight Pictures (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) and Universal Pictures (“The Fabelmans”), who both happened to go home empty-handed this year.
It is probably not a coincidence that the remaining major studios would have a hard time at the Oscars this year after 2022 was such a mess of mergers and acquisitions, leading to many film business professionals out of a job. A24 and Netflix are more adaptable to an increasingly digital world. While the former now likely appeals to those working above the line, with A24 becoming the first studio to ever win all four acting categories, in addition to wins in Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, it is also safe to now say that Netflix has earned the respect of the crafts community.
Although the streaming service did not break its previous Oscar record (it won seven Academy Awards in 2021), “All Quiet on the Western Front” did beat “Roma” for the Netflix film with most wins (four Oscars to three). Even with as tough a break as six straight years of multiple losses within the category, after making movies with masters like Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, and Jane Campion, a Best Picture win for Netflix feels inevitable. To come so close this year with a film the company was not originally pushing shows that the company can truly be an Oscar powerhouse.
However, the Academy still places a premium on films that provide a theatrical experience, and A24 is quickly becoming the only studio able to draw a large number of theatergoers to “prestige” projects. Even without a Best Picture nomination, “The Whale” still had a strong showing at the box office upon its December release. Until the major media conglomerates that own perennially Oscar-nominated distribution companies like Searchlight Pictures, Focus Features, and Sony Pictures Classics, figure out how to reach the arthouse audience again, making better use of digital marketing like their newer competitors do, expect A24 and Netflix to be at the top of the Oscars leaderboard again next year.
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