THB #332 : 1st Annual Oscar Distribution & Marketing Round-Up, Pt 1 of 3
I don’t think I did this as a single piece last year because I wasn’t suicidal. I’m still not suicidal. But I have been reminded that this is another area in this lovely ol’ business that isn’t covered because most media now lives in a very big bed with the industry. (I’m just a side piece.)
At least 12 of the films I’ll be discussing were advertised on this newsletter this year and I am thankful to them all. And I am fine with those who didn’t buy. Some of those who didn’t advertise harbor personal grudges that I did not earn. One weird case was an industry friend of long-standing who ghosted me to avoid acknowledging that their company, who would had advertised their film on matchbooks and air sickness bags had someone suggested it, would not be spending with me. Showbiz goes on.
I am telling you this because I am putting all of that stuff aside when writing this piece. That is my job. It’s not personal… it’s business… even when it feels personal. (Sometimes on the positive side, it is personal… and thanks for being supportive of my work. It makes this newsletter possible. But you don’t get a break here for that reason either.)
I’m not going to give scores, because simplifying that way is assholic, even if popular. This is really meant to be a constructive, conversational piece… whether my perspective suggests praise or pity.
Let’s start with the films that didn’t make it…
I count 19 that were really contenders, trying to get to Best Picture and not getting there. If your feature film is not listed and you have any Oscar nominations at all, it’s because I don’t think your company was really pushing for Picture, but really for some side noms (I see you there and respect you, The Batman).
I’ve broken 19 non-BP nominees into 5 groups. The first is…
Killed (For Best Picture) Out Of The Gate
These films just never got rolling in a way that put them in the race in the way they wanted.
Aftersun - Charlotte Wells has been a hugely respected maker of shorts out of Scotland, making her feature debut. The film played at Cannes without a domestic distributor and the indie-mighty A24 picked it up. They took the film to Telluride and New York, but not Toronto… which is a rarely a successful Best Picture choice. Would it have gotten a little lost against a big, high-promo sea at TIFF? Probably. But they also would have gotten a deeper sampling amongst media. They released the film theatrcially in America in October, already deep into the big Everything Everywhere wave, and the film never found its way onto as much as $150,000 a weekend or as many as 100 screens in any one weekend. The trajectory became about Paul Mescal, as The Gotham Awards and Indie Spirits nominated him, then National Society of Film Critics gave him 2nd place. Whatever chance the film had in Best Picture never really got rolling. If A24 didn’t have a more serious contender in place, maybe this film would have gotten more attention. But this is likely the best possible outcome.
Bones & All - Luca Guadagnino is a top indie filmmaker and whatever he makes will be seen as having Best Picture potential from the time of its announcement. Mix that with a reunion with Timothée Chalamet and Oscar-winner Mark Rylance (who has become, like Luca, a lightening rod for Oscar assumption, but still a 1-time nominee) and the hopes rose. Then they showed the movie. Over Labor Day weekend, it premiered at Venice and showed at Telluride and it was kinda over. Add to this that Call Me By Your Name co-star Armie Hammer was in hiding over accusations of cannibalism and… ugh. UA made a real effort, but with domestic box office under $8 million… way too much to overcome.
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