By Brent Lang
January 24, 2017
With “Manchester by the Sea,” Amazon Studios has made history, becoming the first streaming service to land a best picture Oscar nomination. The awards love justifies the digital giant’s decision to fork over $10 million for the rights to the indie drama. That deal, announced exactly a year ago, was one of the biggest in the history of the Sundance Film Festival.
Oscar voters showered “Manchester by the Sea” with six nominations, including best original screenplay and director nods for Kenneth Lonergan. The film picked up three acting nods — for Casey Affleck’s performance as a grieving janitor, Michelle Williams’ work as his ex-wife, and Lucas Hedges’ turn as his acerbic nephew. Streaming service Netflix previously scored Oscar nominations for documentaries such as “Virunga” and “What Happened, Miss Simone?” Its documentary “The 13th” was nominated this year.
Even though Amazon buys movies for its digital platform, it has more traditional distribution strategy than Netflix. All of the films it backs get theatrical releases. It partnered with Roadside Attractions to distribute and market “Manchester by the Sea.” In contrast, Netflix is primarily interested in offering its movies to its subscribers. Most of its films never make it to the multiplexes.
“Manchester by the Sea” has also been a commercial success. The drama has grossed nearly $40 million at the domestic box office, and ticket sales could continue to grow following the nominations. That’s not the only history that Amazon made on Tuesday morning. Kimberly Steward is now the second black woman to produce a Best Picture nominee following Oprah Winfrey’s nod for “Selma.”