Entering the 92nd Annual Academy Awards, Feb. 9 in Los Angeles, Netflix had a record 24 nominations — more than any Hollywood studio.
In what has become a recurring theme during this year’s industry awards, the SVOD pioneer left the Oscars relatively empty handed. Laura Dern again walked off with a Best Supporting Actress statue for Marriage Story, while American Factory, about a Chinese businessman re-opening a manufacturing facility in Ohio, won for best documentary. The film was produced by former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama’s production company.
Netflix won best documentary in 2018 with anti-doping cycling-themed Icarus.
But The Irishman, Netflix’s big-budget mobster movie from director Martin Scorsese and starring Oscar winners Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino, failed to win an award despite 10 nominations. Netflix spent a reported $70 million promoting Irishman for the awards season.
With a major push into original features, Netflix, like Amazon Prime Video, has taken on Hollywood, spending lavishly on productions and securing A-list talent. It has also — unlike Amazon — rebuffed industry norms when it comes to theatrical distribution.
CCO Ted Sarandos has made it a signature ploy releasing original movies in theaters concurrent with global streaming access. The strategy has angered exhibitors and traditionalists — with the former largely shunning Netflix movies.
In 2019, Netflix original movie Roma won an Oscar for best director (Alfonso Cuarón), best foreign film and best cinematography but lost for best picture. The streamer’s first original movie, Beasts of No Nation, was critically hailed, but ignored by the Academy.
Despite the slights, Sarandos dismisses possible industry blowback toward the streamer’s feature films as speculation.
“A pushback? Nobody can say that with a straight face,” he told the New York Times. “We got 24 nominations, the most of any studio. Our films have been honored across the board.”
Indeed they have. But with South Korea’s Parasite making history as the first foreign-language film to win best picture, Universal Pictures was sure to give the film a traditional theatrical window — generating about $35 million in North America. It has grossed $167.6 million worldwide, becoming South Korea’s biggest box office hit.