Many factors drive an Oscar nomination, but a film‘s release strategy can make the crucial difference.

“Oppenheimer” (13 nominations) and “Barbie” (8 nominations) stand out as brilliantly handled releases. Shutouts like “Origin” (Neon), “All of Us Strangers” (Searchlight), “Air” (Amazon), “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple), and “Saltburn” (MGM) prove that no distributor is immune.

However, when it comes to the distributors with the best track record, there are two: Disney had 20 nominations across Searchlight (12), 20th Century Studios (2), and 1 each for National Geographic Documentary Films, Pixar, Searchlight/Hulu/Disney+, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Disney Branded Television and Disney+.

And then there’s Netflix, a behemoth that doesn’t do sub-brands. It had 18 nominations: 7 for “Maestro,” 2 each for “Nyad” and “Society of the Snow,” and 1 each for “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” “May December,” “American Symphony,” “The After,” “El Conde,” “Rustin,” and “Nimona.” Theatrical releases for all of these films were modest at best, with “Maestro” the most robust.

None of this proves anything in terms of who will win, of course. However, it continues to show that streaming is far from the kiss of Oscar death. Even Disney proves that, with four nominations for films that treated streaming as their primary release.

Here’s a look at what worked best.

Searchlight Pictures

Perhaps the key move this year was Searchlight moving the release date for “Poor Things” from September 8 (when actors were on strike) to December 8 (when they weren’t). It found a silver lining in the misfortunate acquisition of “Magazine Dreams,” made unreleasable in December by star Jonathan Majors’ legal problems. Dropping it from the Searchlight calendar created opportunity.

“Poor Things” stood out among December-release contenders, particularly in platform grosses. Then came a measured rollout with $20 million domestic gross to date; its widest expansion comes this Friday. No movie has a bigger head of box office steam right now.

MAESTRO, Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein, 2023. ph: Jason McDonald / © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Maestro” ©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection


It’s an impressive performance in a tricky year with 18 total nominations, 16 of them for features that encompass eight different titles and nabbed four of the 10 lead acting spots.

“Maestro” gave Netflix a Best Picture nomination for the sixth straight year. But where it really scored were nods for Annette Bening and Jodie Foster for “Nyad” and Colman Domingo in “Rustin” for Best Actor.

Only “Maestro” received anything close to a significant theatrical release. It had a four-week window and played in several hundred theaters nationwide with an unreported gross — perhaps in the $4 million-$5 million range. Of all its nominees, only “Society of the Snow” reached #1 on its movie chart. “Maestro,” “Rustin,” “Nyad,” and “May/December” made brief appearances; “El Conde” and “American Symphony,” not at all.

While film production at Netflix has its challenges (it’s currently seeking a replacement for exiting film head Scott Stuber), the track record for Netflix nominations should do nothing to discourage leading directors and actors to continue working with them (as long as they don’t mind theatrical getting short shrift). In fact, the greatest threat comes from inside the house: Since expensive Oscar-facing titles aren’t major performers, at some point the streamer might choose to reduce its investment.

Amazon MGM

“American Fiction” faced headwinds in getting its five nominations including Best Picture,Actor, Supporting Actor, and Adapted Screenplay. The tonally tricky satire on contemporary racial assumptions from a first-time director and a terrific but commercially unproven cast parlayed a mid-December platform release to $8 million so far; its widest release of 1,500 theaters comes Friday.


It’s the sole distributor with two Best Picture nominees this year — “The Zone of Interest” and “Past Lives” — and neither of which were an easy sell. (Corporately, Universal has two Best Picture noms with “The Holdovers” and “Oppenheimer.”)

A24 approached its nominated films with different strategies, both effective. “Past Lives” was a Sundance premiere that grossed $11 million in its June release. “Zone,” with the elevation of its Cannes Grand Prix win, reaped five nominations (including Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay) even with its late and limited December 22 debut. It expands beyond 100 theaters for the first time this Friday.

ANATOMY OF A FALL, (aka ANATOMIE D'UNE CHUTE), Sandra Huller, 2023. © Neon / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Anatomy of a Fall” Courtesy Everett Collection


“Anatomy of a Fall” has five nominations including Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and Actress. (Only “Oppenheimer” and “Poor Things” can boast the same three-branch results). It’s especially impressive for a film that’s largely in French without an established director.

Similar films faltered in recent year, despite strong reviews. The decision to open in mid-October, before most other awards contenders, paid off. Its $4 million gross was decent for a subtitled drama and has become more impressive with its a steady VOD presence — an even tougher environment for subtitled films.

Neon also received nominations for “Perfect Days” (International) and “Robot Dreams” (Animated Feature), although neither are frontrunners.


“Killers of the Flower Moon” fell short in the Actor and Adapted Screenplay category, but its 10 nominations equal what Netflix got for Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” four years ago. With a worldwide gross of $156 million through a theatrical release overseen by Paramount, it will recoup more of its costs than Netflix did — but it’s not going to see a profit. Apple already won Best Picture with “CODA” in 2022, something that still eludes Netflix. This year is far more competitive.


Strong appeal to younger audiences often determine the success of specialized titles in the current market. The audience for Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” is older, but it’s outgrossed 2023 nominees “The Fabelmans” and “The Banshees of Inisherin.”

Payne’s film has been on PVOD for weeks, but it will return to 1,200 theaters this weekend and is likely to gross over $20 million total. “The Holdovers” opened October 27, the same day as Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla.” That A24 title initially outpaced it to gross $21 million, but was an Oscar shutout.

“The Boy and the Heron” and “Godzilla Minus One”

These Japanese films are among the frontrunners in the Animated Feature and Visual Effects categories, Their distributors (GKids and Toho International, respectively) made the wise decision to give them wide releases in early December. That looked like an savvy move to fill gaps in the release schedule; instead, it became a Christmas bonanza. Hazao Miyazaki’s latest grossed $43 million and “Godzilla” grossed $52 million, hugely elevating their Oscar chances.

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