‘White Tiger,’ ‘Malcolm & Marie’ Shift Netflix’s Oscar Hopes

'White Tiger,’ ‘Malcolm & Marie’ Shift
Cheyne Gateley/VIP

In terms of Academy Awards recognition, Netflix has long been swinging for the fences. 

It spent over $25 million on promoting “Roma” years back and stepped in to save the day for the $170 million-plus-budgeted film “The Irishman,” which was nominated for 10 Oscars in 2020 (but won zero). 

While Netflix may not have a 2021 Oscar hopeful similar in budget to “The Irishman,” the company still has plenty of films to stuff its For Your Consideration messaging with this awards season 

Most recently highlighting this is Netflix’s “The White Tiger,” which released on the service today after starting a limited theatrical run on January 13. The film is one of the many included in Netflix’s FYC page and has been receiving positive critic reviews.  

Still, “White Tiger” doesn’t seem to have as much Oscar talk surrounding it as films like Netflix’s “Mank” or Amazon’s “One Night in Miami. That likely doesn’t help the chances of “White Tiger” eventually being a 2021 Academy Award-winning film for Netflix. 

Variety film awards editor Clayton Davis yesterday predicted “White Tiger” has a low chance of being nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, for example. Davis currently expects Netflix films like “The Trial of Chicago 7” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.  

Still to come and worth paying attention to in Netflix’s latest awards season push is “Malcolm & Marie, a drama Netflix purchased for $30 million out of TIFF last year. Davis doesn’t see the film as one of Netflix’s biggest Oscar hopefuls, but the film seems like something that could attract meaningful viewership due to the huge fan base of its co-star Zendaya (who has nearly 85 million followers on Instagram). 

Zeitgeist penetration for “Malcolm & Marie” could open more opportunities for Netflix to work on or distribute awards films with millennial/gen Z-appealing celebs like Zendaya.  

That could help the streamer remain as one of the main video platforms for teens. U.S. teens on average spent 34% of their daily video consumption on Netflix in H2 ’20, a figure slightly higher than that for YouTube (32%), according to Piper SandlerDaily time spent with Prime Video (3%), Hulu (7%) and Disney+ (6%) were lower.  

Netflix will continue to bulk up on awards-contending films as some of these teens grow up watching the platform. It purchased films such as “Concrete Cowboy” and “Bruised” out of last year’s TIFF, and it could be a prominent buyer at this year’s Sundance (check out our analysis of the 2021 Sundance market here). 

Netflix film chief Scott Stuber earlier in January told Variety of Sundance that the company would be “active there and looking.”  

All this is at least partially in aim of ensuring Netflix consistently improves its Oscar-season batting average. In 2020, Netflix won only two of the 24 Oscars for which its films were nominated.