Netflix entered the ceremony with the most nominations on its scorecard of any studio. At the end of the night, it walked away with two wins. (Or, from a glass-half-full perspective, Netflix was one of six studios to take home multiple Oscars.)
Laura Dern won a supporting-actress statue for Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach’s drama about a couple’s divorce. It was the first time a Netflix movie earned an acting Oscar. And American Factory, a documentary about an Ohio plant reopened by a Chinese billionaire, won an Oscar for best feature doc. Documentaries are a category Netflix has excelled in: It took home a feature-film documentary Oscar in 2018 for Icarus, about doping among competitive cyclists, and its films have been perennial nominees.
By comparison, Neon — the distributor of best-picture winner, Parasite — walked away with four wins thanks to the South Korean thriller’s dominance. Sony Pictures also won four, as did Disney, which includes Fox films’ Oscars for the first time. Universal took home three, and Warner Brothers netted two.
Oscars are key to burnishing Netflix’s credibility as a go-to place for top-tier original films. While Netflix is known for television-award darlings like The Crown, the streaming service took longer before it focused on films and has found breaking into the Oscars tougher. Not only do Oscars help attract and keep subscribers as the company faces down competition from new rival services likeand , but the cachet is also crucial to luring top talent.
Netflix spent millions of dollars to make prestige films for this awards season, plus many millions more on eye-popping awards marketing campaigns. But the road to the most elusive Oscars has been tricky for Netflix — and required the company to compromise. The company’s habit of upending Hollywood norms rankled some of the industry’s traditionalists for years. Mainly, Netflix championed releasing all films “day-and-date,” which means Netflix debuts its movies in theaters and on its streaming service for home viewing at the same time.
Besides antagonizing some theater owners who see it as a threat to getting people in cinemas, day-and-date doesn’t appeal much to auteur filmmakers who want the big-screen experience and the validation of top prizes. Only in the last couple years, since Netflix has relaxed its day-and-date strategy, giving limited theater runs to its awards-catnip titles before streaming them, has the service seen its Oscars hauls increase from a trickle.
Last year, Netflix won multiple Oscars out of its 15 total nominations, with Alfonso Cuarón winning for Roma’s directing and its cinematography, and Roma itself winning for foreign language film. Netflix’s documentary Period. End of Sentence also won in the doc short category. But Roma fell short of the ultimate prize, a best picture Oscar.
Netflix dominated nominations with 24 this year, more than any other studio, including best picture nods forand Marriage Story. In the end, it lost out for best picture, directing, supporting actor, adapted screenplay, cinematography, editing, visual effects, costume design and production design for The Irishman; best picture, actress, actor, original screenplay and original score for Marriage Story; actor, supporting actor and adapted screenplay for The Two Popes; documentary feature for The Edge of Democracy (the category Netflix won for American Factory); documentary short for Life Overtakes Me; animated feature for Klaus; and animated feature for I Lost My Body.
Originally published Feb. 10.
Update, Feb. 11: With more context about the awards.
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