From Ex Machina to Moonlight: how A24 disrupted Hollywood

Can the US indie distributor become the new Miramax or Weinstein Company?

It is not often that you notice logos at the beginning of movies, but one in particular is becoming unavoidable, especially if you’ve gone to the cinema looking for something a bit edgy and grown-up, but not old-fashioned. If you’re a fan of those sorts of films, then the sliding, retro-minimalist, white-on-black logo of A24 films is probably etched on to your subconscious. You can currently see it before The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Florida Project and Good Time. And, soon, on The Disaster Artist, James Franco’s buzzed-about tribute to bad-movie titan Tommy Wiseau.

When it comes to the biggest movies of recent times – commercially speaking – A24’s are way down the list, but as for the movies people will remember in 20 years’ time, this indie company seems to be cornering the market. Its past releases include two of this year’s most refreshing horror movies – A Ghost Story and It Comes at Night – plus Ex Machina, Under the Skin, Amy, Room, American Honey and last year’s Oscar-winner, Moonlight, the first picture it produced as well as distributed. It’s sure to figure in this year’s awards race, too.

Watch the trailer for The Disaster Artist.

While the Hollywood majors have abandoned the mature, mid-budget space in favour of megabucks spectacle, over the past five years A24 has set about filling the vacuum. In some respects, the company is the anti-Hollywood; if you look at how it’s scuzzed up Robert Pattinson in Good Time, for example. Founded by three young New York producers, David Fenkel, John Hodges and Daniel Katz, it’s closer to Miramax or The Weinstein Company, except without a grotesque sexual predator as a CEO. And with Harvey’s downfall, there’s certainly room for new blood.

Like Miramax, A24 also knows how to play the publicity game. For Ex Machina, for example, it created a Tinder profile for Alicia Vikander’s android character; while Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers benefited from a Last Supper pastiche, with James Franco’s character as a “thug Jesus”. Both went viral, doing the pictures’ marketing for them.

Not everything it touches turns to gold, though. A24 has put out some real stinkers, including Gus van Sant’s The Sea of Trees and Kevin Smith’s Tusk. But as well as a willingness to gamble, it has shown you can get results by putting faith in both film-makers (who praise A24 for simply leaving them the hell alone) and audiences, some of whom still enjoy being challenged and surprised. The future of cinema belongs to those who believe in it.

The Disaster Artist is out on Friday 1 December

Contributor

Steve Rose

The GuardianTramp

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