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Courtesy of A24

November 7, 2019

GUEST ROOM | How A24 Has Been Shaking Up the Movie Industry Since 2012

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For most film nerds, seeing the A24 logo pop up on the big screen before a movie is a pretty good indication that you are in for a treat. The distribution and production company has an amazing track record and has built up quite a reputation in the film industry over the past few years, with Academy Award favorites like Moonlight, Lady Bird and 20th Century Women.

The films that they distribute span a wide range of genres — from haunting horror/thriller movies like Heredity to more light-hearted dramatic comedies like Lady Bird. Yet even across genres, their films are almost always critically renowned not just for being high-quality films, but also for a uniqueness and vibrancy — an X-factor, if you will — that is consistent across all of their content.

This raises an important question: How is A24 able to continuously release a slate of successful small to mid-budget films that repeatedly push boundaries and attract rave reviews within an industry that is saturated by crowd-pleasing blockbusters? In other words, how is a company like A24 able to thrive alongside distribution giants that have dominated the movie industry for almost a century?

One reason is that they aren’t owned or controlled by any of the major six distribution companies (20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount, Columbia, Universal and Walt Disney Studios). This gives A24 the freedom to distribute and produce more inventive, niche films that wouldn’t necessarily fit the blockbuster mentality of these media giants. In this way, A24 is able to distribute a portfolio of small to mid-sized movies that are of a higher quality, even if they may be considered niche.

In a profile of the company that was released by Slate in 2015, film critic David Ehrlich summarized the success of A24 at a time before they had even released many of the movies that have made them a household name: “At a time when young people are increasingly going to the movies only for blockbuster spectacle, A24 has established itself as the film industry’s most forward-thinking company by releasing the kind of midsized, stylish, quality films that seemed on the verge of going extinct, transforming them into a collective theatrical experience and aiming them squarely at a demographic that would rather watch movies on their phones.”

By creating a cohesive brand — both through the content they choose to release and the persona they present online — A24 has built a strong following among younger audiences that normally wouldn’t bother traveling to a movie theater unless promised 3-D glasses.

For example, among the items that are available for purchase on A24’s website are a 2019 calendar of evil grandmas inspired by Hereditary and a plush dog keychain modeled after Ellen, the scene-stealing dog from A24 distributed film The Farewell. While on the website, you can also read niche articles for movie lovers like “Iconic Danny Glover Performances and Why We Love Them,” or listen to their podcast, which features prominent actors and directors from their movies and from the industry in general.

Scrolling through A24’s Instagram page, you will find the expected movie trailers and promotional content, but you will also find hilarious, yet oddly specific memes and photos from their outdoor showings of A24 distributed films.

It is easy to get a feel for who A24 is as a brand just from quickly perusing through their social media accounts. They have a keen understanding of who they are and who their audience is: young movie lovers. Using this knowledge, they have built a brand through crafting content on social media that is remarkably consistent, while also presenting an awareness of the different nuances that exist on each platform. Their Instagram has memes, while their Twitter reposts witty commentary from fans and their Tumblr page features aesthetically pleasing content with a consistent color scheme. And, this brand that they have created is consistent with the movies that they choose to distribute.

Innovative brand building isn’t the only way that A24 has managed to shake-up the movie industry. They have also recently become affiliated with other major media companies in order to reach a wider audience of viewers through streaming. Last year, Apple enlisted A24 to produce a few films for them, effectively expanding its reach from arthouse cinemas to Apple streaming services. They have also begun producing TV shows within the past year, such as HBO’s hit show Euphoria. These moves have allowed them to grow as a company while remaining true to the content that they produce and the brand that they have built.

Besides this, A24 is also able to remain successful at the box office through clever release patterns. While competing indie distribution companies like Annapurna Pictures have fallen flat at the box office with releases like Booksmart, A24’s formulaic release pattern has allowed them to find continuous success. Typically, A24 first releases a film in a few theaters and slowly increases the number of theaters as it gains traction through word of mouth and praise on the internet. This is how they have been able to maintain longevity and success in the box office, and why a film that was made for less than 2 million dollars, like The Farewell, garnered over $14 million throughout its long run in theaters.

A24 is disrupting the otherwise stagnant movie industry in a number of ways while developing award-winning material along the way. Their innovative tactics have allowed them to maintain their niche indie brand while continuing to grow as a company. They frequently think outside of the box and make exciting moves as a company, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what move they make next.

 

Jean Cambareri is a sophomore College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at jcc444@cornell.edu