Movie

A24 is competing with Disney with only a fraction of the budget

Satanic goats, man-turned-lobster and James Franco sporting cornrows. Under any normal circumstance, most of these things sound like part of a straight-to-Netflix B-movie you discover when you’re high as a kite and on your second Calios of the night. But these are all characters that make up films curated and created by the definitive Hollywood dark horse of the 21st century: A24.

Instead of reducing “The Witch,” “The Lobster” and “Spring Breaker,” — the parent titles of the previously listed characters — to the late-night Netflix circuit, they found footing in the Cineplex world with A24, a New York-based production and distribution studio. While Disney is laughing all the way to the bank with its blockbuster Marvel films or live-action remakes, A24 is cashing checks a lot more efficiently, and with an unmatchable sense of style.

Where an Avengers film can cost upwards of $200 million, an A24 title can run about $1.5 million. Despite the unimaginably small cost in comparison to some of the competition, it’s holding its own, and then some. A24 is third in the running for studio with the most Oscar nominations this year, behind the well-established Lionsgate and Paramount. “Moonlight,” “20th Century Women,” and “The Lobster” carry a total of 10 nominations for A24.

These films, and the entire A24 library, represent a ridiculously vast spectrum of subjects and topics. From Amy Winehouse to a farting Daniel Radcliffe, it’s hard to see how these films represent the same brand. Despite the infinite subject and tone base, A24 finds unity in these differences. Both established directors such as Noah Baumbach and Sofia Coppola, and upcoming visionaries like Yorgos Lanthimos and Barry Jenkins flock to the indie distributor for their embracement of the unique and essentially, the cool.

What keeps these films from being lost under the barrage of vertically integrated comic book characters is the studio’s ability to not look like a corporate sellout. There are no cross-promoted Happy Meal toys, no obnoxious Metro-plastered ads and no promises of eternal franchises. Guerilla marketing uniquely catered to each film, from a Twitter account for “The Witch’s” evil goat, to an automated Tinder profile for the feminine robot of “Ex Machina,” organically creates buzz for films rather than aggressively shoving it in audiences’ faces. It’s not “cool” to be a century-year-old conglomerate sell out, and A24 knows that.

To continuously set itself apart from its big-studio-brothers, the studio maintains an identity of mystery and self-awareness that other companies lose among rigid PR departments and traditional corporate professionalism. The “about us” portion of its website consists solely of the phrase “Established in 2012. New York, NY.” Recent tweets from the official Twitter account include calling out Universal Studios for its “Mummy” remake, cracking intern jokes, and referencing the Obamas’ dog. Its internship application is even preceded by a movie trivia crossword. This young and spunky studio is beating out the majors at their own game, without following the rules.

In a time of turbulence within the film industry, where Netflix and Hulu are making more headlines than Disney or Sony, it’s refreshing and hopeful to see a new forerunner break the mold of what a studio can and should be. By avoiding traditional practices, A24 has paved its own path and made a name for themselves. Next up on its plate for 2017? A few Oscar wins, Jonah Hill’s directorial debut and no doubt another character or two as memorable as Franco’s “Sprang Brake” screaming Alien, or Black Phillip’s satanic goat.

Lilly Stuecklen is a junior television, radio and film major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached on Twitter @Stuecks or by email at lsstueck@syr.edu.

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