What are you hearing about A24? For the past five years, pretty much since the morning after Moonlight was awarded the most famous Oscar ever—well, not awarded it, then quickly awarded it with apologies—people in Hollywood have been asking that question about the independent studio behind the movie. And nearly everyone claimed to have the inside track. Apple was in negotiations, then Amazon was interested. Maybe Comcast? A supposed $3 billion asking price spilled into the trades, sparking mockery. Just last month, a prominent lawyer whispered to me that Apple was back with A24, doing its due diligence as part of an anticipated acquisition. The guy was sure it was happening.
Part of that was just normal industry gossip. But within Hollywood, A24 has always generated more chatter—and, at times, outright jealousy and anger—than you’d think for a decade-old company that has never released a movie that grossed more than $50 million domestically. For some reason, there’s been this aura around A24. It was Miramax in the ‘90s, minus the asshole brothers at the helm, and at a time when the actual Weinsteins, and much of the indie film business in general, was in a depressing freefall. A24 was where real artists—and New York-based artists, like the Safdie brothers (Uncut Gems), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Sofia Coppola (On the Rocks) and Ari Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar)—wanted to work, and where they often made multiple films. I once bumped into Gerwig dining with boyfriend Noah Baumbach downstairs at the Polo Bar, and she was wearing an A24 hat.
Its leaders did zero press. Its movies and, later, TV shows—the boundary-pushing (Spring Breakers, HBO’s Euphoria), the young and insufferably hip (Zola, Eighth Grade), the awards-y (Room, Minari), and the Zeitgeisty (the Amy Winehouse documentary)—seemed curated by a Williamsburg mixologist. It spent less on Oscar campaigns than rivals and yet always seemed to pull off nominations and wins. Its social media created buzz among young people, and thus the impression—correct or incorrect—that A24 was somehow a meaningful commercial brand. Essentially, it was the cool NYU film school kids to Hollywood’s USC water polo bros. And everyone would rather hang with the cool kids, right?