How A24 Proves More Studios Should Embrace Streaming

Today, A24 is regarded as a champion of the theatrical experience and especially of the idea that original challenging material has a place in this domain. While big studios owned by conglomerates like Warner Bros. and Universal are afraid to give Will Smith and Jennifer Lopez vehicles theatrical exclusive releases, A24 will gleefully begin marketing a movie about Michelle Yeoh | fighting foes across the multiverse as a theatrical event.

But to get to their modern state, A24 has regularly distributed movies through alternative means to theatrical exhibition. Over its nearly decade-long existence, A24 has worked with an array of streaming platforms and companies to deliver unorthodox works to the general public. Though it means certain titles didn’t get classical big-screen runs in thousands of theaters, these moves did keep A24 afloat and, in several ways, show a better way for studios to engage with the streaming landscape.

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Image via A24

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This history began with A24 striking a deal in 2014 with a most unusual player in the world of streaming entertainment: DirecTV. Yes, the film studio famous for churning out movies college-aged film buffs can’t stop quoting had an early arrangement with the cable company that ensures your uncle can watch the History Channel whenever he wants. The deal entailed A24 and DirecTV acquiring certain films and then having them debut as DirecTV pay-per-view exclusives before A24 gave them limited theatrical releases. On paper, these titles would get normal runs for an A24 title, they would just be preceded by a brief period of DirecTV exclusivity.

In hindsight, with all the financial difficulties DirecTV has faced since this deal was struck, this feels a bit like DirecTV desperately trying to ward off the inevitable with only shallow forays into streaming entertainment. But the A24/DirecTV partnership did establish that this indie movie studio was willing to work with providing projects to other entertainment platforms. This release strategy included features like Slow West and Enemy, while The VVitch was originally scheduled to be an A24/DirecTV release before getting upgraded to being a theatrical exclusive handled solely by the former company.


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Image via A24

This union would last for an impressively long time, with A24 supplying DirecTV with new releases as late as 2019 with films like The Hole in the Ground. During this partnership, A24 began to expand its presence on the streaming front by announcing a union in late 2018 with Apple TV+ to provide the nascent streamer with new titles. Uncertainty abounded at the time whether or not this was A24 throwing in the towel on theatrical releases altogether and switching over to just producing things for Apple. In the years since, though, A24 has only delivered a handful of films for Apple TV+, such as On the Rocks and The Tragedy of Macbeth.

The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the film industry to an unprecedented degree and all that change has led A24 to further experiment with providing new movies to various streamers and premium cable channels. At the start of 2021, the horror movie Saint maud, originally scheduled as a conventional theatrical release for April 2020, debuted on Epix[LL1] , the studio’s first foray with this MGM-owned channel. Later that year, A24 would give The Humans a simultaneous bow on Showtime (with whom A24 has a pay-TV contract for all its theatrical releases) alongside a small theatrical run.


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Image via A24

A24’s forays into streaming platforms even extends to international territories, as seen with Uncut Gems. This production was an in-house production for A24 and proved to be their costliest venture yet as a studio with a $19 million budget. Handing that much cash to Josh and Benny Safdie, two directors who’d never previously helmed a mainstream box office hit, could’ve been a massive risk. A24 mitigated that risk by selling the distribution rights to Uncut Gems to Netflix to every territory worldwide except the United States of America. This acclaimed crime thriller got to have the best of both worlds, a theatrical run in its country of origin while its simultaneous international streaming bow ensured its costs were covered.


Looking over the history of A24’s relationship with various streaming services, what’s reassuring is how the studio is constantly looking at streaming as something that can co-exist alongside big-screen experiences. The modern pop culture landscape is largely defined by companies like Netflix, to ignore that is to toss one’s head into the sand. But to ignore the value of a big-screen release would be similarly foolish. While many bigger studios end up throwing all their chips into the volatile streaming pot, A24 takes a cue from Dennis from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia by playing both sides.


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Image via A24

This willingness to do a little bit of everything also embodies another positive aspect of A24’s approach to streaming entailing its willingness to work with several different companies. While the studio has had pay-TV deals with Amazon and Showtime for its theatrical releases, it doesn’t exclusively work with those companies nor does it only deliver streaming projects to Netflix. A24 jumps all around the marketplace, delivering one production to Epix while working with DirecTV on other low-budget genre features. In an age where big studios hoard their productions for their streaming services, A24’s willingness to go anywhere and everywhere is a welcome return to an older age.


Best of all, A24 doesn’t use streaming releases as an excuse to eschew physical media releases. All the A24/DirecTV movies got DVD and Blu-Ray releases and the Apple TV+ project On the Rocks has also gotten such a debut (though the A24/Apple TV+ documentary Boys State has not gotten a physical release as of this writing). As late as five years ago, the idea of a studio putting out its projects on DVD wouldn’t seem so revolutionary. However, that was before Netflix normalized the idea that movies debuting on streaming wouldn’t receive Blu-Ray bows. Suddenly, acclaimed projects like Small Axe or Private Life are stuck behind Amazon and Netflix paywalls, respectively, without a Region 1 physical media release in sight.


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Image via AppleTV+

This norm shifts even more power over who has access to cinema towards gigantic conglomerates, a deeply disturbing sign for film archivists and even just fans of movies in general. Thankfully, A24 has countered this trend by ensuring that its projects get physical releases no matter where they end up. Once again, A24 recognizes that streaming can be an advantageous way to debut certain titles, but that it shouldn’t be the only place you can access a motion picture hundreds of people toiled away on.


Throughout its history, A24 has made extensive use of various companies ranging from DirecTV to Epix to Apple TV+ to premiere certain films in a manner deviating from theatrical norms. In the process, the studio has ensured financial stability for projects like Uncut Gems and The Tragedy of Macbeth, but it’s also shown an ideal way for studios to engage in this new territory. By engaging in tactics like working with more than one streamer and making use of physical home video releases, A24 offers more options for consumers as well as for how certain films like Enemy get discovered.

The age of streaming has seen countless theatrical movie studios acting in rash and undisciplined manners to adjust to the new status quo. But A24 has repeatedly shown skill in engaging with new entertainment platforms that constantly puts audiences and the films themselves first, as it should be.



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How A24 Proves More Studios Should Embrace Streaming

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