It’s been just over a year since Amazon Studios acquired Kenneth Lonergan’s heartbreaking Manchester by the Sea at the Sundance Film Festival for a cool $10 million, and while the indie already has proved its chops at the box office with a $38.9M domestic tally (and counting), it’s the film’s Oscar nominations today that have made history for the streaming giant.
Boasting six Academy Award nominations for Manchester – including Best Picture, Original Screenplay and Director for Lonergan – Amazon has become the first streaming service to earn a coveted Best Picture nom.
Nominations also went to Casey Affleck for Best Actor, Michelle Williams for Supporting Actress, and Lucas Hedges for Supporting Actor. Meanwhile, Iranian title The Salesman, which Amazon is releasing in the U.S., was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film giving the company seven noms in total.
The noms are sure to be a boon to a company that has been quietly, but aggressively, expanding its slate. Upcoming titles include prestige filmmaker-led indies such as Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck, Doug Liman’s The Wall and Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying. Amazon recently scored big in Sundance by laying down a whopping $12M paycheck for The Big Sick, co-written by and starring Kumail Nanjiani.
Meanwhile, Netflix, which earned its first Oscar nom in 2014 for feature documentary The Square, is no stranger to the Academy Awards: All of the streaming service’s nominations since then have been in the Documentary Feature category. This year, it earned a Best Doc nom for 13th, while previous Netflix entrants to that category include Virunga and What Happened, Miss Simone? Netflix also snagged two noms today for documentary shorts: Extremis and The White Helmets.
There’s no doubt the two companies increasingly are willing to up their game in awards-season race, and while both Netflix and Amazon have a huge appetite for content – much to the delight of the independent marketplace — Amazon takes a punt on theatrical, offering films a chance at a cinematic run before streaming it on its service. For Manchester by the Sea, it partnered with Roadside Attractions in the U.S. to distribute the film.
Netflix boss Ted Sarandos, however, has made it pretty clear that it is, for the most part, not interested in offering a theatrical run and would rather push content first directly to its subscribers.