A24 is changing its release strategy – can the world’s coolest movie studio pull it off?

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With Alex Garland’s upcoming Civil War and the hint of IP filmmaking on the horizon, A24 is entering the big leagues in 2024. But will the studio’s 12th anniversary make or break it?

In the laugh-a-minute world of entertainment company marketing, distributor-turned-production company A24 is leagues ahead of the competition.

While the current “Big Five” (Walt Disney Studios, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros) fight constant PR battles over everything from fumbled superhero projects to deleting finished films off their streaming services, A24 has apparently effortlessly garnered a reputation for producing interesting small and mid-budget cinema on a regular basis.

In perennially online film-fan circles, the phrase “it’s an A24 film” somehow means something far more than the logo that appears at the start of the movie. For a studio responsible for a catalogue as varied as Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Green Knight and Talk To Me, that shouldn’t make any sense. Except A24 has garnered a reputation for something far more valuable – it is, through a combination of canny marketing and, more fundamentally, good taste, cool.

Everything Everywhere Ratatouille
Everything Everywhere All At Once is A24’s highest-grossing film to date, taking $141m at the global box office.

Since exploding into the world of film production in 2016 with Best Picture winner Moonlight, it’s produced three of the 2010s’ most widely acclaimed horror films (Hereditary, Midsommar and The Lighthouse). In the US, it’s distributed the directorial efforts of Greta Gerwig, Gaspar Noé and Joanna Hogg. And so far, the company’s model has more than paid for itself.

In 2022, it became the sixth-largest movie studio in the US, behind only the five huge legacy conglomerates. It started the most recent Oscars ceremony with the most nominations of any studio (18). It finished it with the most wins (nine).

With that level of box office and critical success, it would be tempting for founders Daniel Katz and David Fenkel to rest on their laurels. But if the 2023 rumour mill is to be believed, the studio has started to shift direction towards the least cool of all commercial ventures – the mainstream.

But despite its hunt for “action and big IP projects”, it looks like A24 is still keen to maintain its enviable public image. Its 2024 slate includes the latest from a long-time collaborator, Alex Garland’s Civil War. An unabashedly political action epic set in a near-future United States, its $50m budget is a sweet $15m ahead of its most expensive film to date – Ari Aster’s Beau Is Afraid, which clocked in at $35m.

Through some combination of dumb luck, timing, and exceptional business sense, A24 has found itself at the indie outer edge of some of Hollywood’s hottest trends.

In September, it re-released 1984 concert movie classic Stop Making Sense in the same year that Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour had distributors scrambling around for the next pop sensation to drag fans into cinemas in their droves.

This month, the company announced (via a T-shirt listing) that it was co-producing Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding film, the same year The Super Mario Bros Movie and Five Nights At Freddy’s turned videogames into multi-million dollar hits.

death stranding
Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding is scheduled to be A24’s first foray into the much-hyped video game to movie pipeline (Credit: Kojima Productions)

But these projects aren’t without their risks. Though it’s garnered a deserved reputation for taking chances on more off-the-wall projects, in many ways A24 has worked on a similar model to the equally horror-adjacent Blumhouse. Remembered for its bigger films with swankier marketing campaigns, the A24 back catalogue is still littered with smaller flicks that failed to find their footing critically or commercially. For the most part, these films’ comparatively microscopic budgets means it’s hard for any of them to lose catastrophic amounts of money.

As the studio expands, though, the price of failure becomes much higher.

Civil War, potentially setting itself up as A24’s first blockbuster, will have to rival the studio’s highest grossing projects at the box office to avoid being labelled a flop. Films based on existing IP, like Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding and bids for big franchise rights (The studio narrowly missed out on the rights to make a Halloween TV series, which went to Miramax in October) bring with them the potential for huge profits – but could just as easily wreck A24’s reputation if they don’t deliver.

At the same time, it’s hardly all-change at the company which brought us the official Talk To Me bong. Its next film to release in the States is already-acclaimed wrestling drama The Iron Claw, followed swiftly by Steve McQueen’s four-hour Nazi occupation documentary, Occupied City, and Saint Maud director Rose Glass’ romantic thriller Love Lies Bleeding.

Whichever direction ultimately wins out, 2024 is set to be an interesting year for America’s trendiest movie studio. For years now the company has had its cake and eaten it when it comes to its cinematic releases. If it can repeat the trick with films costing upwards of $50m, it’s hard to think of anything that could stop it.

(Edit: A previous version of this article incorrectly cited Civil War’s budget at $75m, as reported on IMDb. This has since been corrected to the more accurate $50m. Don’t trust everything you read on the internet, folks.)

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