Essays · Movies

The History of A24: A Timeline of the Rising Distributor

Despite their young age, A24 has emerged as a voice for the value of artistic filmmaking. Here’s a breakdown of where they’ve been and where they’re headed.
Lady Bird A24
By  · Published on June 16th, 2018

If you’re a film lover in the 21st century, chances are you’ve come across the name A24 once (or several times) before. For those who are perhaps not so familiar with the name, A24 is an entertainment company founded in 2012 that focuses on film distribution and production. The company’s focus has been to provide a platform for films with a “distinctive point of view,” and their success in doing so over merely five years has made them one of cinema’s most exciting new voices.

To provide a sense of the company’s growth over the past few years, here’s an overview of some of the most prominent works in their filmography.

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (2012)

This film from writer-director Roman Coppola marks the first official theatrical release from A24. A comedy-drama about a breakup, it stars Charlie Sheen but has remained a relatively overlooked entry in A24’s catalog. Nonetheless, this film laid the foundation for the types of small films that rely heavily on artistic vision and that were able to reach an audience through A24.

Spring Breakers (2012)

This slick neon-drenched affair from Harmony Korine establishes the first major box office success for A24. Starring James Franco, Selena Gomez, and Vanessa Hudgens, the film follows four female college students who rob a restaurant to afford a trip to Florida for spring break, and quickly find themselves entangled in further criminal escapades after they arrive. Considering its relatively small budget of $5 million, its box office achievement of $31.7 million helped further open the doors for the type of material to be taken on by A24.

the bling ring a24

The Bling Ring (2013)

Sofia Coppola’s true-story crime film represents another monumental release for the company. Based on Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins,” Coppola takes an in-depth look at the five teenagers known as “The Bling Ring,” who infamously robbed the homes of celebrities in the late ‘00s. The Bling Ring had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival before its theatrical release.

Ex Machina (2014)

This directorial debut from Alex Garland (who went on to direct 2018’s Annihilation) takes a unique and daring approach to the sci-fi genre. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and Oscar Isaac, this movie follows a programmer who is invited to the home of his company’s CEO to administer the Turing test to an AI humanoid robot, but quickly finds out things are not exactly as they seem. The film was well-received both by critics and at the box office and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 2016 (as well as earning a nomination for Best Original Screenplay). Not only did Ex Machina help create new possibilities for A24 due to awards success, but it expanded the realm of possibilities for artistic direction, as well.   

Amy (2015)

Amy is a documentary by Asif Kapadia following the life and death of singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. This was the first film of the sort from A24 and was met with much critical acclaim, praised for its honest portrayal of the turmoil of celebrity culture. After only its opening weekend, it became the highest-grossing British documentary film of all time. It earned the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2016.

Room A24

Room (2015)

From director Lenny Abrahamson comes another widely celebrated picture for A24. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, Room is a heart-wrenching story about a young woman (Brie Larson) who has been held in captivity for 7 years, accompanied by her young son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who has never known a world outside of those four walls. The film picked up four Academy Award nominations in 2016, as well as a win for Brie Larson for Best Actress. Room served as a reminder that simple and straightforward storytelling has the ability to move us immensely. 

The Witch (2016)

This directorial debut from Robert Eggers was A24’s first true dive into the horror genre (unless you count Under the Skin). Based in 17thcentury New England folktales, the film follows a family who is banished from their town and forced to live on an isolated farm, where they soon discover a supernatural force to be working in their midst. The film stars young up-and-comer Anya Taylor-Joy, helping to launch her into further major roles in her career. Furthermore, The Witch represents the start of A24’s suspense-riddled, mind-bending approach to horror that shows contemporary renderings of the genre do not have to be filled solely with jump scares and cheap tricks.

The Lobster (2015)

An absurdist black comedy from Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster follows a man named David (Colin Farrell) who lives in a society where single men and women have 45 days to find a partner or else be turned into an animal of their choosing. The film takes an oddball approach, but never once sacrifices its artistic ideas to make audiences more comfortable. And it paid off: the film was later nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards in 2017.

American Honey (2016)

This free-spirited adventure ride from director Andrea Arnold is a 2-hour, 43-minute extravaganza like no other. It stars newcomer Sasha Lane, who plays a teenager who runs away with a magazine sales crew that travels across the American Midwest. After competing at Cannes Film Festival, it won the Jury Prize. This is another A24 picture that prioritized the art of filmmaking over the money that can be made from it. 

moonlight a24

Moonlight (2016)

Barry Jenkins’ stunning and incredibly moving film about identity and coming to terms with it was another game-changer for the distributor. The film had a small budget, but made over $65 million at the box office and received near-universal critical acclaim—a reminder that the amount of money spent on a film does not define the number of people it will touch. Moonlight eventually ended up taking home the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017, the first of such awards for A24, proving that sometimes the underdog can come out on top.

Good Time (2017)

From the Safdie brothers comes a crime thriller that is sweeping, engaging, and hypnotizing. Taking place over the course of one single night, a young man named Connie (Robert Pattinson) gets swept up in a whirlwind of lies and criminal escapades in a roundabout effort to rescue his brother (Benny Safdie). Elevated by great cinematography and score, Good Time is blunt and doesn’t beat around the bush—the audience gets to witness it all.

The Florida Project (2017)

Sean Baker’s newest feature provides a starkly realistic portrayal of those living week-to-week at a budget motel in Florida, ironically situated just outside of Disney World. The film often embraces the perspectives of its child protagonists, adding further layers to its already distinctive angle. The film stars fresh faces Brie Vinaite and Brooklynn Prince as the central mother-daughter duo, as well as Willem Dafoe as the motel’s burdened but caring manager, his performance earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Lady Bird (2017)

Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut is a coming-of-age tale that resonated with many. Starring Saoirse Ronan as the titular Christine ‘Lady Bird’ MacPherson, the film follows Lady Bird throughout her senior year as she is faced with the ups and downs of love, friendship, and family, with the mother-daughter relationship often playing a central role in Lady Bird’s character development. Lady Bird is A24’s highest-grossing film at the box office to date, earning just shy of $78 million, and holds an astounding 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film earned 5 Academy Award nominations, as well as earned Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actress – Musical or Comedy for Saoirse Ronan’s performance. With Lady Bird, A24 gave us a film that is likely to stick around for years to come.

Hereditary A24

Hereditary (2018)

A24’s most recent release, Ari Aster’s directorial debut continues to follow the path of immense thought-provocation that has become a pattern in the horror films the company has chosen to back. After premiering to rave reviews at Sundance Film Festival, critics and audiences alike have had an overall enthusiastic reaction to this slow-burn horror about a family coming to terms with the death of their grandmother. Hereditary is proving to be yet another success for the distributor, earning the best box office debut the company has seen.

Beyond these works, A24 has several other fantastic films that have helped to build and shape this company to provide an opportunity for other wonderful works to be seen. The distributor already has many highly anticipated releases arriving later this year, such as Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade, a tale about growing up in the age of social media, and David Robert Mitchell’s Under the Silver Lake, a neo-noir crime thriller starring Andrew Garfield.

As their platform continues to grow, A24 will likely continue to provide an outlet for filmmakers to be filmmakers and let their art speak for itself. In an age where major studio blockbusters threaten to monopolize the box office, A24 represents a revolution of sorts and a beacon of hope for the future of film—that great movies will continue being made, and that great movies will have a way of reaching us.

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I write about film and occasionally other stuff. Xavier Dolan enthusiast. Trying to read books before seeing their film adaptations and sometimes succeeding.