I’ve seen Midsommar four times since its release this July. Three times in theaters and once on Amazon Prime. I love the movie—it’s bright, violent, and exhilarating in ways that horror rarely is. I’d even call it my favorite movie of this year. Midsommar is distributed by A24, an entertainment company that’s become well known this decade for its wild, stylish lineup of distributed independent films and devoted fans who’ll pay for a movie ticket (or three) without even watching a trailer, just because of their faith in the studio’s quality.
Devotion to a movie studio is rare. Entertainment companies usually rely more on fans' support for specific actors or directors tied to the movies they're marketing rather than the company's own name. From this, we get distributors like 20th Century Fox, which distributes movies based on factors outside of tonal cohesivity—in less than six months, the company distributed both a family–friendly, animated Bigfoot fantasy and a politically charged Dick Cheney biopic. A24 is different—fans attribute the A24 logo with something new, something bold, and something that’s just a little bit weird. Maybe it’s due to their daring guerrilla advertising strategies, their quirky movie merch, or even their consistency in identifying and supporting stories that historically haven’t been shown on screen, but there's no denying that A24 has personality and flair.
Now, A24 is coming to Penn, in the form of free screenings, giveaways, and “maybe even bringing in cool people to campus, if that presents itself as an opportunity,” says Jessica Li (C ’20), Penn’s A24 campus ambassador. The “A24 at…” initiative began last year as a partnership with a handful of schools to raise awareness of the studio with college students, and is expanding across the nation this year.
“What I think is really special about A24 is they’re really trying to tap into underserved voices,” Jessica says. “Movies that you normally wouldn’t see on the big screen—like they’re trying to really tell stories that matter to people.”
Some of A24’s most well–known productions include Moonlight, the 2016 winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Euphoria, the drama starring Zendaya that shook social media this summer. It’s also attached to The Farewell and Mid90s—movies that showcases people of a wide range of ages, races, and sexualities, in stories that hit close to home for communities that don’t usually get represented on the big screen.
Lulu Wang, director of The Farewell, turned down an offer from a major streaming company in “faith that a theatrical release with A24 would be a more meaningful way to introduce this film to audiences.” The Farewell was shot mostly in Changchun, China, its script is written almost entirely in Mandarin, and its cast is fully Asian—yet it is unmistakably a Chinese–American film. A24 showed it substantial marketing attention on Western social media, and the film was released in theaters across America. Beyond resonating with Chinese–American communities across the nation, The Farewell’s widespread release put it in the spotlight for countless other people to also experience the highly personal, culturally driven story.
And that’s what both A24 and A24 at UPenn are all about. Embracing stories with quiet, strange voices, and giving them platforms to reach anybody and everybody who’s willing to listen—even Penn students. Come out to a screening—you just might find your new favorite movie.
Check out A24 at UPenn’s Facebook page.
A24 at UPenn and SPEC Film are hosting a free screening of The Witch on Oct. 30. RSVP here.