A Brief History of A24
Summer 2019 was a mixed bag for film. Don’t get me wrong, there were some definite gems, and a good deal of which had the label A24. Some of the company’s notable recent releases include “The Souvenir” (2019), “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (2019), “The Farewell” (2019), and “Midsommar” (2019). These movies all tackle different themes and plots, yet share a similar spark of brilliance inherent to the type of genuine and intentional craftsmanship expected in an A24 film. A24 has been undoubtedly on the rise the past few years and is absolutely killing the game right now. But what is this elusive brand name, and why should you care about a film distribution company?
A24 began with three friends who wanted to create a company that would push film culture in a positive direction. Their title reportedly comes from the name of an Italian highway the co-founders were driving on when they decided to bring this dream of revitalized indie film to fruition. The company’s first big release, “Spring Breakers” (2012), helped get the ball rolling, along with the documentary “Amy” (2015) and movies like “Room” (2015) and “The Witch” (2015). What guaranteed A24 their spot in a competitive industry was their first original production: “Moonlight” (2016). This is most certainly an over-analyzation, but personally I think the Oscars debacle was a pretty accurate metaphor for Moonlight and A24 in general; here was this absolute blockbuster, “La La Land” (2016), produced by the movie-giant Lionsgate, and all of sudden, running up the aisle was an indie film that managed to secure the most prestigious award in the business.
This isn’t to say A24 isn’t pretentious (the company’s named after an Italian highway for Christ’s sake), but it’s not of the same behemoth stature that other distribution companies hold, and that’s pretty neat. It’s extremely disappointing to watch a movie that’s just solely Oscar bait, or run-of-the-mill cash grabs for companies like Warner Brothers or Universal.
It’s rare that a film distribution company receives much attention, or is closely tied to a film’s artistry, so A24’s ability to turn heads is a little revolutionary for the industry. A24 is based in New York, across the country from the Hollywood bubble, and it’s clear they don’t intend to succumb to that scene anytime soon. A24 has a distinct aesthetic, and it’s easy to pinpoint their content, which is a massive feat considering the variety of work they release.
Distribution companies are necessary for the behind the scenes work of marketing, cutting trailers, and getting films into theaters, but they rarely bring much authenticity to the production. A24 is unique in that it seeks films that tell stories in a way that necessitates connection while still maintaining a tone of originality. Co-founder David Fenkel notes, “We find movies [for which] our perspective, our system, our people, can act to make it something special. If it’s gonna be released the same way by another company, we usually don’t go after it” (GQ). This mindset has pulled off films like “20th Century Women” (2016), “The Disaster Artist” (2017), “Lady Bird” (2017), and “Eighth Grade” (2018), all of which received critical acclaim as a byproduct of their hard work. I’m not claiming every A24 production is a masterpiece, and it is, after all, just a distribution company, but there’s an incredibly captivating magic they’re bringing to the table. I wholeheartedly believe there are content-creators working to bring inventive and personal narratives to the masses, and I’m not mad that A24 may be the group leading the charge.