From Moonlight to Midsommar: How movie distributor A24 succeeds in the era of superheroes and sequels

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The same week as Joker created – one of five other films in various stages of development that focus on the character – film distributor A24 was working on a different strategy.

They published a line of books.

While this might seem like an odd choice for a company dedicated to filmmaking, Washington Post pop culture reporter Sonia Rao says it fits their business strategy perfectly.

It’s a strategy that seems to work: the books sold out almost immediately.

Founded just seven years ago, A24 has quickly become a trailblazer in an industry saturated with superhero movies, sequels and remakes.

With a repertoire of films that includes Moonlight, Hereditary, Eigth year, The farewell and The witch, they’ve created an almost untouchable reputation among moviegoers, while selling seemingly bizarre merchandise to connect with young people like no movie company has done before.

Rao spoke with Day 6 host Brent Bambury on the A24 phenomenon, what makes the distributor’s success so relentless, and what the creators who worked with the distributor themselves had to say about how A24 shaped their films.

Here is part of that conversation.

This line of books is not the first piece of merch released by A24. They have pins, candles and even a bear figurine that attaches to Environment, Ari Aster’s horror film …. What does all of this have to do with their films?

It’s a great way to harness the internet and its obsession with their movies.

You mentioned the candles, which I think is the strangest thing they sell. They have one related to the movie High life for example, which takes place in space.

It’s like a High life scented candle: what does it mean, what does it mean to have a space candle? It really doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a pretty cool candle.

When the A24 logo appears at the start of the film, what prompts moviegoers to sit down and pay attention?

What catches people’s attention is the fact that you never really know what to expect. I think even though they’re all so different: Barry Jenkins’ vision for Moonlight is not at all similar to what Ari Aster does in Hereditary, but you can tell by watching both movies that these are the exact projects these directors wanted to do.

You can really feel their imprint on the movies, whether it’s aesthetically, or if it’s in what’s actually going on in the movie, or the risks they’re willing to take.

Sometimes with Hereditary these risks are very obvious, and sometimes with films like Moonlight, they are more subtle. This film did something that a lot of other studios might have been hesitant to do, considering it was Barry’s second film.

For Barry Jenkins, Moonlight obviously launched a career which I think is likely to be spectacular for many years to come. What did he tell you about working with A24 that made him different for him?

Moonlight was the first movie A24 ever produced on their own, so he was like, “Are you going to come see me, that guy who only made one movie for $ 15,000?”

What Moonlight It is about a black boy from Miami who comes to terms with his sexuality throughout the film as he grows up.

It’s a beautiful subject, but it’s not necessarily a story that you would see coming from other companies … When the films are centered on minorities, on several genres especially, sometimes the studios say, “Hey, c ‘for who? ”

A24 saw it on the other side, they said, “Well, that’s a story we haven’t seen and so we should tell it.” It was present in all of Barry’s responses to my interview, namely, “It’s a story I knew I wanted to tell and I’m just glad I found the right people to help me tell it. “

Barry Jenkins had only directed one film, Medicine for Melancholy, before starting work on the award-winning film Moonlight. (Al Powers / Invision / Associated press)

When you watch this year’s box office blockbuster movies, 19 out of 20 of them are comic book properties, or sequels, or based on intellectual property that already exists.

How sustainable is A24’s model when telling stories they aren’t sure they have an audience for?

These films obviously have an integrated audience, which is why 19 of them are so successful. But I also feel, maybe, a kind of tiredness with movies based on IP, or which are reboots or remakes.

I think people are hungry for new things. They want new stories, they want things that came from someone’s brain recently and don’t just rehash what we’ve done before.

I think A24 really taps into that, and they don’t just tell an old new story, they tell some really personal stories that you can tell the writer [and] directors have really, really wanted to do it for a while.

A good example would be Lady Bird … If you know Greta Gerwig’s work, you can really feel yourself in this movie. She based it a bit on her life. And I think movies like that, which focus on a teenage girl but quite honestly, are things that we’re going to see more of, and we haven’t really seen a lot of them until recently.

Director and screenwriter Greta Gerwig based the film Lady Bird in part on her own life. (Merie Wallace / A24)

Do you think A24 has another Moonlight get off the pipe?

It’s hard to say.

When Moonlight left, they formed a company … which they did very quickly, moreover; they became a fairly successful business fairly quickly.

Now people’s expectations of them are so high that it’s hard to say, “It will be theirs. Moonlight. “But I heard a lot of buzz about the movie Uncut gems with Adam Sandler, and he’s already making the buzz at the Oscars, which I think is surprising to hear.

They’re playing that awards season game that everyone is playing these days, and they just seem to have more and more contenders over the years.


This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. To hear Sonia Rao’s full interview, download our podcast or click Listen above.



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