Oscars: Warner Bros. Scores Most Wins, But Open Road Has Critical Victory

Spotlight, Mad Max and The Room Split - H 2016

In the competition among distributors, Fox and A24 both picked up three trophies.

The numbers didn’t tell the whole story as distributors counted up their victories at the 88th Academy Awards.

Warner Bros. lapped the field with six wins, all of them in the crafts categories for Mad Max: Fury Road, which dominated an early section of the evening. George Miller’s apocalyptic action movie, which Warners produced in partnership with Village Roadshow, swept through costumes, production design, makeup and hairstyling, sound editing, sound mixing and film editing (that final award had to have been a particularly happy one for the Miller household, since it belongs to Miller’s wife, Margaret Sixel).

Fox, thanks to The Revenant, staked a claim to three awards, including best actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), best director (Alejandro G. Inarritu), and best cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), and those were all key wins. And since it also is distributing Bridge of Spies internationally, it got a partial credit for that movie’s best supporting actor win by Mark Rylance.

Meanwhile, A24, the relatively new production and distribution company that has only existed since 2012, proved to be the little company that could, for it also collected three trophies. While Brie Larson’s best actress win for her performance in the chamber drama Room was expected, the win by Asif Kapadia’s documentary Amy was far from guaranteed in the very competitive feature documentary category. And Ex Machina’s win in the visual effects category was surprising, since writer/director’s Alex Garland $15 million movie about a sentient android was competing against such VFX spectacles as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Martian, Fury Road and The Revenant.

Open Road Films — another newcomer to the game, it was founded in 2011 — may have only won two awards, but those nods came when it mattered: Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight kicked off the evening by securing the best original screenplay Oscar, and then, when it looked as if the momentum favored The Revenant, it pulled off a last minute hail-mary, winning the top prize as best picture.

Disney was on the board for two wins. It served as the domestic distributor of DreamWorks’ Bridge of Spies. And it also had Pixar’s feature animation winner, Inside Out.

Other distributors had to settle for solo Oscars: Focus had the best supporting actress winner, The Danish Girl’s Alicia Vikander; Paramount, best adapted screenplay, The Big Short; Sony Pictures (along with partner MGM), best song winner “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre; Sony Pictures Classics, foreign-language film Son of Saul; and The Weinstein Co., best score for Ennio Morricone’s work in The Hateful Eight.

But given that the awards — at least beyond the technical categories — were spread somewhat evenly, there were plenty of bows to be taken all around.

Arnon Milchan’s New Regency could claim four trophies — the three for The Revenant and one for its share in The Big Short — and Milchan got appreciative shout-outs from the stage from both Inarritu and Alejandro.

Participant Media, which was involved in both Bridge of Spies and Spotlight, could point to three wins, including its first-ever best picture win. 

And HBO managed a seat at the table for the documentary short A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.