Amazon’s Oscar Nod Reflects Growing Success of Tech Companies in Film

Casey Affleck in Kenneth Lonergan’s MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. Photo credit: Claire Folger, Courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions
Casey Affleck in Kenneth Lonergan’s MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. Photo credit: Claire Folger, Courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions

Amazon has become the first technology company to receive a best picture nomination at the Oscars. This year, Manchester by the Sea received six nominations in total, and the success of the film reflects a trend of movie streaming services wielding increasing influence over Hollywood.

Last year, Amazon Studios paid $10 million for the rights to the Casey Affleck-led indie drama, in one of the largest deals in the history of Sundance Film Festival, and is the co-distributor of the film. Amazon has sought to snap up and distribute other indie movies in recent years, and will no doubt see its clout in Hollywood increased by several nominations in the industry’s biggest awards. The online retail giant’s movie strategy differs slightly from fellow streaming service Netflix, but both are making large imprints on the entertainment business.

Academy voters bestowed best picture, best screenplay, and best director nods on Manchester by the Sea and the film’s director Kenneth Lonergan. Cassey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedge were also nominated for their performances in the movie.
In 2016, Amazon Studios also distributed movies such as Love & Friendship, The Neon Demon, Café Society, The Handmaiden, and Paterson.

Netflix, perhaps Amazon’s biggest rival in movie and television streaming, only received one nomination, for Ava Duvernay’s documentary 13th. Netflix has employed a different strategy to its original content, preferring to distribute movies primarily via its own service. Amazon ensures its films get a prolonged theatrical release, whereas Netflix movies such as Beasts of No Nation were only given limited, and some would say token, releases in theaters.

Netflix will be able to console itself with its latest subscriber numbers, which jumped significantly at the end of last year, adding 5.12 million subscribers outside the U.S. and 1.93 million in the U.S. in the last three months of 2016. A major driver of this growth has been the success of the company’s original TV shows such as Narcos and Stranger Things.

Manchester by the Sea may not win the best picture nomination–La La Land is the favorite to take the award–but it’s surely only a matter of time before a technology company walks away with the coveted statue.

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