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With the nomination of Amazon Studios’ Manchester by the Sea for best picture on Tuesday morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has officially put streaming services in the Oscar features game.
Amazon has not only scored its first Oscar nominations with Manchester, it has also become the first streaming service to earn a best picture mention.
Manchester received six total nominations, including Kenneth Lonergan for directing and original screenplay, Casey Affleck for lead actor, Lucas Hedges for supporting actor, and Michelle Williams for supporting actress. The Salesman, Iran’s selection in the foreign-language film category — which Amazon is distributing in the U.S. — also received a nomination, bringing Amazon’s total nominations to seven.
Netflix was first of the streamers to begin buying and producing original films, earning its first Oscar nomination in 2014 for The Square. Since then, all of its Academy Awards nominations have been in the documentary category, even after it entered the feature film fray in 2015 with Beasts of No Nation.
Amazon, meanwhile, made its first awards season run last year with Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, but an Oscar nomination remained elusive.
Over the last year, Amazon has spent aggressively to become a serious player in the prestige film world, buying up Manchester, Wiener-Dog and Love & Friendship among other films at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. This year, Amazon has already paid $12 million for The Big Sick at the festival.
Though both Netflix and Amazon are willing to spend big for awards contenders, the latter has shown that it is willing to give films a full theatrical run before making them available to its Prime subscribers, a promise that gives it the upper hand with some filmmakers. For Manchester, for example, it partnered with Roadside Attractions for distribution and marketing.
That strategy has paid off during this year’s awards season. In addition to Manchester’s Oscar nominations, Affleck also won a Golden Globe for best actor in a drama earlier this month.
For his part, Affleck tells The Hollywood Reporter that debate over whether to take a project to a streaming platform “is behind us.” He adds: “I think people are finding stories in lots of different places. I’ve never been on a movie that has been more wholeheartedly supported by a distributor than this movie. Amazon has been perfect — I cannot overstate it. They believed in this movie from the beginning. I hope they continue to buy movies and make movies and release movies because they do it in a way you rarely see.”
Netflix, meanwhile, continues to dominate the documentary space. Its Ava DuVernay documentary 13th was nominated in the documentary feature category, and it had two documentary shorts — Extremis and The White Helmets — also nominated.
Jan. 24, 12:23 p.m.: Updated to include comments from Casey Affleck.