The star of the 2023 Oscar season was “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” but you could be forgiven for thinking it was A24. The company picked up nine Oscars at the ceremony and there wasn’t a safe commercial bet among them.
On top of launching the zany ambition of “Everything Everywhere” into a $107 million worldwide gross, A24 also scored two Oscars for Darren Aronofsky’s divisive “The Whale,” which sneaked its way past $35 million accumulated over a gradual release plan. Its nominees also included two Cannes acquisitions, Best International Feature Film nominee “Close” and “Aftersun,” which secured a Best Actor nomination for Paul Mescal and solidified his stardom. Despite the blockbuster successes of “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” in 2022, the year’s big winner was a company that didn’t exist when these franchises were born.
Yet the Oscars are only a small part of the equation for A24: The Guggenheim-backed company is just getting started. Like Hello Sunshine or Brad Pitt’s Plan, A24 explored a sale in 2021 with a self-diagnosed valuation of $2.5-$3 billion. Instead, it raised $225 million in equity investment for what comes next. Here’s what to expect around the corner.
At Sundance alone, A24 backed playwright Celine Song’s Korean love-triangle debut “Past Lives,” Nicole Holofcener’s dramedy “You Hurt My Feelings” with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Savanah Leaf’s “Earth Mama,” Raven Jackson’s “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt,” and the documentaries “The Deepest Breath” (with Netflix) and “Stephen Curry: Underrated” (with Apple TV+).
“Past Lives” became a critical favorite (and scored well in IndieWire’s critics poll) and made its international premiere at the Berlinale. The studio passed on the opportunity to play at the upcoming New Directors/New Films series, angling for a higher-profile premiere ahead of its release June 2, with an eye toward generating awards buzz for its tender performances (Greta Lee in particular) and Song’s screenplay. “Earth Mama” will open New Directors/New Films this month.
The day after its triumphant Oscar night, A24 turned its attention to SXSW and the premiere of Julio Torres’ queer comedy “Problemista.” Starring Tilda Swinton, it premiered to mostly positive reactions. The company also screened supernatural horror film “Talk to Me” at SXSW after acquiring it out of Sundance.
That leaves a few options for what could bow at Cannes in May. It won’t be Ari Aster’s “Beau is Afraid,” an enigmatic psychological thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix (also rumored to be developing a new project with Aster); that hits theaters in April. Aster would love to make a Croisette debut, but A24 is favoring a strategy similar to his successful sophomore effort “Midsommar” with a special premiere event outside the festival circuit.
A24’s Cannes candidates include the Aster-produced “Dream Scenario” starring Nicolas Cage, and Cannes regular Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla,” which promises an alternate take on the Elvis Presley legacy. Another possibility is Sean Durkin’s wrestling film “The Iron Claw” with Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, and Harris Dickinson, while Alex Garland is in post on “Civil War” starring Kirsten Dunst. The studio is also readying Jonathan Glazer’s much-anticipated “The Zone of Interest,” his first feature since “Under the Skin,” which was an A24 pickup back in 2013.
Other finished films with Cannes potential include Jane Schoenbrun’s wacky teen horror effort “I Saw the TV Glow” produced by Emma Stone (her A24 credits also include “When You Finish Saving the World” and “Problemista”). The studio also has Rose Glass’ “Love Lies Bleeding,” the follow-up to her A24 debut “Saint Maud.”
Other features from A24 in various stages of completion include Larry Charles’ “F*cking Identical Twins” featuring Megan Thee Stallion and a Pete Davidson comedy from David Michod, “Wizards!”
Also in the pipeline: Production will soon begin on the third chapter in Ti West’s horror trilogy with Mia Goth (“Pearl,” “X”), this one titled “Maxxxine.” There’s also “The Legend of Ochi,” a fantasy that reteams A24 with the Russo brothers’ AGBO (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”), Steve McQueen’s documentary “The Occupied City,” and “BLKNWS,” which Participant is developing with A24 based on Kahlil Joseph’s experimental video art installation.
Sources tell IndieWire the company is also developing a secret new movie with “Waves” and “It Comes at Night” director Trey Shults — and it’s not the one recently announced starring The Weeknd, Jenna Ortega, and Barry Keoghan. (That project has yet to secure distribution.) It also announced a rerelease of the Talking Heads’ seminal music documentary directed by Jonathan Demme, “Stop Making Sense.” A24 acquired the film (originally released by Island Pictures) and will put a 4K print in theaters as “Stop Making Sense 2023.”
This is also the company responsible for “Euphoria,” HBO’s biggest hit after “Game of Thrones;” a third season will arrive later this year. Meanwhile, “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson came into the fold for upcoming HBO series “The Idol” after widely reported problems with the show’s original creative team. While it will premiere on HBO this fall, sources tell IndieWire that it is expected to make some noise much sooner when the first few episodes premiere at Cannes out of competition. (Earlier reports that the festival was considering the show are accurate, though it has yet to decide on whether it will screen two or three episodes, since the third contains a major cliffhanger.)
Other projects on the A24 TV slate include Steven Yeun vehicle “Beef,” which heads to Netflix on April 6 in the wake of its SXSW launch. Its grandest TV undertaking still has a long way to go with “The Sympathizer,” a large-scale HBO adaptation of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The series’ ensemble cast includes Robert Downey Jr. and Sandra Oh in addition to many Vietnamese actors and revered Korean auteur Park Chan-wook as its director.
While not commenting on actual figures, an A24 rep confirmed that it’s the most expensive show that the studio has produced to date. By comparison, the total expenditures for the California Film & Television Tax Credit (excluding non-qualifying costs) for Season 1 of “Euphoria” was $165 million; Season 2 was $110 million.
In early March, A24 announced a very different kind of acquisition by buying New York’s Cherry Lane Theater, the longtime West Village home for Off Broadway productions. A24 confirmed to IndieWire the reported $10 million price tag, a relatively modest cost by New York real estate standards — certainly less than the average successful Oscar campaign for Best Picture.
The move mirrors Netflix’s recent acquisition of the Paris Theatre and Audible purchase of the Minetta Lane Theater nearby, and it reflects A24’s multimedia ambitions. Sources tell IndieWire that A24 plans to continue hosting theater work in the space, though it will be used for screenings and events as well.
While the company plans to keep the theater open for its 100-year anniversary this spring, it will close for the summer with a planned reopening in 2023 following what the company described as “light renovations” (although they could take as long as 18 months). It will tinker with the 179-seat and 60-seat theater spaces in addition to sorting out its new role as landlord for eight rent-controlled apartments that also occupy the building.
The Cherry Lane isn’t the only evidence of a company looking to expand its investment strategies. The company recently joined forces with Todd Boehly and Apple to invest in the music startup Gamma. Last year, it launched the makeup line Half Magic, with Emmy-winning “Euphoria” makeup artist Donni Davy.
Early in its history, A24 developed a significant revenue stream through a DirecTV deal, but often filled it with minor projects. In 2019, it signed a multi-year output deal for features with Showtime, which has benefited as the exclusive digital home for many A24 hits soon after they leave theaters. Showtime’s own future has been upended by the decision to consolidate it into studio parent Paramount, but A24’s deal expires with Showtime in November.
©Apple TV/Courtesy Everett Collection
In 2018, the studio signed a two-year production deal with Apple that yielded projects such as Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks” and last year’s “Causeway,” which landed Brian Tyree Henry a Best Supporting Actor nomination. It has not signed a new deal with the streamer since its expiration.
That leaves A24 with no fixed streaming outlet for its titles. To some observers, this may indicate a sale on the horizon. The more likely situation is that A24 has its pick when it comes to the streaming landscape and can take its time. The world can wait.