Mar 28, 2022 - Technology

Apple TV+ makes history as first streamer to win Best Picture Oscar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

For the first time in the Academy Awards' 94-year history, a streaming company has nabbed the award for Best Picture. Apple TV+'s "CODA" won three Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay).

Why it matters: It's a watershed moment for the film industry, which has for years been grappling with ways streaming has upended Hollywood's status quo.

  • "CODA" took home the top prize, despite being shown in very few theaters around the country. The movie theater industry has struggled to recover from the pandemic, which permanently shifted viewership toward streaming.

Be smart: It's a seminal moment for Apple, which had been considered a Hollywood outsider compared to tech rivals Netflix and Amazon.

  • Netflix's "The Power of the Dog" was also a Best Picture favorite heading into the night. The Western drama was nominated for more Oscars than any other film this year.
  • Apple's Best Picture win is even more impressive, given that this was Apple's first year as an Oscar nominee. Apple didn't even launch its streaming service, Apple TV+, until 2019, many years after Netflix and Amazon.
  • The iPhone maker reportedly spent between $20 million and $25 million marketing "CODA" leading up to the event, an indication of its push for legitimacy in Hollywood.

The irony: Apple's victory over Netflix likely couldn't have happened if it weren't for Netflix paving the way for the tech industry's Hollywood invasion.

  • Netflix has received more nominations than any movie studio, tech or traditional, for the past three years.
  • It's pushed hard to win Best Picture but has always come up short. Netflix has received at least one Best Picture nomination every year since 2019 for films like "Roma," "Marriage Story," "The Irishman," "Mank" and most recently, "The Power of the Dog." It was its first Oscar in 2017.

Setting the scene: The Oscars held an in-person show Sunday night, marking a much-needed return to normal for Tinseltown.

  • The show aired live on ABC from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. A-listers graced the red carpet and attended parties without masks, although they were still required to test negative before attending the main event in-person.

Between the lines: The show featured several buzzy moments, many of which called out political affairs in the U.S. and around the world.

  • The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held a moment of silence for the people of Ukraine. Some actors wore Ukrainian colors or pins to show their support.
  • While accepting his award for Best Documentary Short, "Queen of Basketball" director Ben Proudfoot said to President Biden: "Bring Brittney Griner home," referring to the U.S. basketball player who is currently being detained in Russia,

The evening's hosts — actresses Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and comedian Wanda Sykes — referenced Florida's "Don’t Say Gay" bill, Texas politics, the Golden Globes' diversity scandal and the Academy's controversial decision not to air eight categories from the live broadcast in response to declining ratings.

  • One of the most surprising moments of the night was Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on stage.
  • After joking about Jada Pinkett Smith's hair, Will Smith ran onto the stage, slapped Chris Rock, and yelled, “Leave my wife’s name out of your f--king mouth." Smith later apologized in an emotional acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Other firsts:

  • Ariana DeBose became the first openly queer person of color to win an acting Oscar, winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in Steven Spielberg’s live-action version of “West Side Story.”
  • "CODA" star Troy Kotsur made history as the first male deaf actor to win an Oscar.

The big picture: Ratings for the Oscars and most of Hollywood's major award shows have been declining in recent years as more people turn to streaming.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that CODA's other two awards apart from Best Picture were for Best Supporting Actor and Best Writing, not Best Supporting Actress and Best Director.

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