Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos (pictured, below) was at the Oscar nominees luncheon earlier this month and in the audience at the Dolby Theatre for The 87th Academy Awards on Sunday, but he didn’t get to party with a statuette into the night.
Virunga – writer/director Orlando von Einsiedel‘s film about endangered African mountain gorillas that Netflix distributed and heavily campaigned for – lost in the best documentary feature category to CitizenFour. Adding to the sting of defeat is the fact that the winning effort, about government intel leaker Edward Snowden, was produced by its linear TV rival HBO.
The Virunga Oscar campaign was supported by full-page ads in the New York Times, billboards in Los Angeles and sponsored Facebook posts.
Additionally, Leonardo DiCaprio lent his promotional muscle to the film, signing on as executive producer shortly before its Oscar-qualifying theatrical run in New York and Los Angeles in November. After the nominations came out, Netflix gave voters a second chance to see the film on the big screen, re-releasing it theatrically in New York and Los Angeles on Jan. 30.
As the reality of the loss sinks in this morning, Sarandos can take comfort in the knowledge that Netflix is well-primed for an Oscar next year with its sequel to the martial arts fantasy Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which will premiere in select Imax theaters Aug. 28, the same time it bows on the streaming service, presumably qualifying it for Academy consideration. Released in 2000, the first Crouching Tiger film won 4 Oscars from 10 nominations, and the sequel is a co-production with The Weinstein Company, renowned for its take-no-prisoners awards campaigns.
Netflix is also reportedly mulling an Oscar-qualifying theatrical run for its war thriller Jadotville, starring Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey) and Guillaume Canet (Tell No One), which is set to debut across all its territories in 2016.
Not surprisingly, there has been no Oscar talk regarding the four Adam Sandler films Netflix has pacted to distribute.