Brow Beat

Netflix Was Nearly Shut Out on Oscar Night, Despite Leading Nominations

The streaming giant spent hundreds of millions to recruit the likes of Martin Scorsese, Scarlett Johansson, and Anthony Hopkins, but it faltered in the final mile.

Robert De Niro in The Irishman, Adam Driver in Marriage Story, and Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes.
Netflix got 24 nominations total including several for The IrishmanMarriage Story, and The Two Popes.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Netflix.

When the 2020 Academy Awards nominations were announced, Netflix made history with a total of 24, making this year’s nominations the first ever led by a streaming service. Unlike last awards season, when most of Netflix’s nominations were for one film, Roma, this year the company had a fleet of strong contenders, with The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes each bringing in several nominations. On The Irishman, in particular, Netflix spent big bucks in hopes of becoming the first streaming service to take home a Best Picture trophy: The movie reportedly cost more than $160 million. That made it Martin Scorsese’s most expensive movie ever, and perhaps Netflix’s too.

But Netflix’s nominations amounted to little at the actual ceremony on Sunday, as Netflix netted just two awards. Laura Dern received Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her divorce lawyer character in Marriage Story, which had been nominated for a total of six Oscars. The other win for Netflix was in the Best Documentary Feature category, for American Factory.

These are dispiriting numbers for Netflix compared to last year, when it had fewer nominations (15) but did better the night of, winning a total of four Oscars: Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign-Language Film for Roma and one for Best Documentary Short Subject.

This is disappointing for Netflix, if the reportedly prodigious budget the company dedicated to its Oscars campaign—estimated to be at least $70 million—is anywhere close to what was actually spent. But given that by some metrics the nominations matter more than the actual wins, the streaming giant should be just fine.