A24's Showtime Deal Bolsters Indie Studio's Ambitions

Waves Still 3 - A24 Publicity -H 2018
Courtesy of A24

While Showtime is the first linear partner for A24, the output deal is the latest in the indie outfit's web of production and distribution partnerships that has spanned Amazon, DirecTV, HBO and Apple.

In the increasingly busy landscape of streamers, broadcast networks and movie theaters, indie studio A24 is parlaying its critically acclaimed brand into a flurry of deals to maintain its bottom line.

Showtime Networks is the latest company to get into the A24 business, announcing an output partnership with the New York-based studio, where A24-produced films theatrically released through Nov. 1, 2022 — which would include this month’s awards hopeful Waves and the upcoming untitled Mike Mills drama starring Joaquin Phoenix — will air across Showtime’s broadcast channels and streaming service. (THR parent Valence Media is a minority investor in A24.)

While Showtime is the first linear partner for A24 (headed by Daniel Katz and David Fenkel), the output deal is the latest in the notoriously mum indie outfit’s increasingly complicated web of production and distribution partnerships that has spanned Amazon, DirecTV, HBO and Apple.

Soon after its 2013 launch, A24 entered into a partnership with AT&T’s satellite broadcaster DirecTV where the two companies would jointly acquire films for U.S. distribution, DirecTV offering premium satellite releases of movies 30 days prior to a modest theatrical release. The movies that have fallen under this pact have traditionally been titles that lack awards potential, such as Dark Places starring Charlize Theron and A Woman Walks Ahead starring Jessica Chastain, which at its height of theatrical release was playing on six screens.

Also in 2013, A24 inked its first major output deal with Amazon Prime Video for it to act as the exclusive premium subscription home for A24’s then-small library of titles including Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers and Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring. (The A24-Amazon deal has since lapsed, given the tech giant’s entry into the indie space.)

As A24 has expanded into producing more of its own features, it increasingly has looked to other avenues to distribute its films. This past Sundance, the indie studio bypassed theatrical and sold two of its produced titles, Share and Native Son,­ straight to HBO Films.

Most recently, it signed a multiyear agreement with Apple to produce a slate of films for the tech giant, beginning with the Sofia Coppola father-daughter feature On the Rocks. While the Apple-A24 films will be receiving theatrical releases, THR has learned that those titles will not be included under the Showtime deal.

"Wherever you can mitigate your costs up front, that's good," says one veteran distribution executive of A24's array of agreements. "Showtime, HBO or any places that are willing to pay top dollar for content — that's the game."

As indicated by A24's partitioning of its catalog, partners are buying into a brand. "Their logo means something when attached to a film or project," says Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock. "That's as important as IP in this day and age, maybe even more so."