By Matthew Tran (’23) | November 16, 2020
“There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won best picture.” During the 89th Academy Awards, stunned cinephiles reacted in dismay to the eventful Best Picture winner confusion: the unorthodox, independent drama Moonlight became the true winner of Best Picture, beating that night’s heavily favored La La Land. Moonlight was the first film with an all-black cast, LGBTQ-related central plot, and the second-lowest-grossing film ever to win Best Picture. In spite of the surprise and disappointment, a silver lining was lost in the turmoil that ensued after the ceremony: A24, distributor of Moonlight, created a game-changing movement for modern cinema by sharing uncommon stories on screen. How had a once moderately-struggling New York studio, of only seven years, became the driving force behind today’s push for independent films?
According to founders Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, and John Hodges, A24’s vision is pushed to a new generation of cinephiles to experience the company’s “movies from a distinctive point of view.” This vision is connected with Moonlight’s overnight success—a poetic, coming-of-age drama that revolves around the life of Chiron, a young black man, and his struggle with accepting his identity and sexuality. Moonlight is a boundary-pushing film that identifies with the personal struggles of the marginalized and millennial viewers—the movie embraces A24’s label and philosophy of seeking to share unconventional stories on screen.
“As I watched Chiron struggle… I felt alongside him. I would say this is a defining factor within A24 films. No matter the character, the audience has a connection to what they’re seeing on screen—this is something I search for when I look for new movies,” comments film enthusiast Kate Kalcic (‘23).
A24 has a successful marketing strategy of distributing films that galvanize their intended audience of Generation Z, who are politically-charged and outspoken members born between the late-1990s to early 2000s. Titles like Lady Bird and Eighth Grade are geared towards youth cinephiles—promoting the terrified and authentic voices of Generation Z.
Jacob Resurreccion (‘23), a devoted member of Saint Francis’ Film Club, commends A24 for its marketing strategy: “From what I’ve seen, I think that the storytelling is done in a way that is unique compared to a lot of other movies. [A24] seems to put a lot of work into quality without worrying about sequels… I find appealing the weird and intelligent style, and how [A24] makes a lot of bold and creative choices.”
A24’s reign in the realm of independent cinema reflects on Generation Z’s growing interest in arthouse films. Arthouse films are not aimed at a mainstream audience; instead, they convey serious themes of social realism while emphasizing the aesthetic qualities of filmmaking. Similarly, the revitalization of the subgenre, art horror, has experienced a resurgence in recent years of cinema. A24 has distributed acclaimed “art horror” films like Hereditary, Midsommar, The Lighthouse, Uncut Gems, and others.