Amazon Studios, the film and TV production arm of
The honors are a major step for Amazon as it becomes an increasingly formidable player among the traditional studios and distributors and ramps up competition with Netflix for digital eyeballs. The milestone also signals the growing relevance of digital players as they spend heavily on original content and team with prestigious filmmakers. Amazon paid an eye-popping $10 million for the domestic rights to "Manchester by the Sea" at last year's Sundance Film Festival.
Global streaming giant Netflix, which has been equally aggressive in pursuing film deals on the festival circuit, also fared well. Netflix came away with nominations for Ava DuVernay's mass incarceration documentary, "13th," and two documentary shorts.
"To imagine two or three years ago that Amazon would have a film in Oscar contention would've been almost unthinkable," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. "Doors are being kicked open by companies that previously would not even have had a seat at the table."
Multiple relative Hollywood outsiders, including CBS Films,
Santa Monica studio Lionsgate notched 26 nominations to lead all the distributors, including a record-tying 14 for the original musical “La La Land.” Lionsgate also earned kudos for “Hacksaw Ridge” and “
The last time the studio was in the best picture race was 2010, when it had "Precious" and Summit Entertainment (which Lionsgate later acquired) won with "The Hurt Locker."
"Our success underscores the great diversity of our slate and the strength of our brand," said Lionsgate Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer in a statement.
Other outsiders making their play at the Oscar table include ESPN, the Disney-owned cable sports giant, which made the acclaimed documentary "O.J.: Made In America." The inclusion of the nearly eight-hour film, which ran in theaters and played on TV in multiple parts, has further blurred lines between what is considered a movie or a TV show.
New York-based indie distributor A24 continued its quest to be an Oscar regular, with 10 total nominations, including a big haul for Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight."
Additionally, CBS Films, the small movie arm of broadcasting juggernaut CBS Corp., earned four for “Hell or High Water,” the neo-western starring
But some major studios were not to be counted out, especially
Last year, 20th Century Fox scored the most nominations of all the distributors, thanks to commercial and critical hits "The Martian" and "The Revenant."
3:20 p.m.: This post has been updated with a quote from Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer.