Summer of Soul,” a documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival from Ahmir Thompson, better known as Questlove; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” a comedy-drama-romance; and Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley,” about a manipulative carnival worker. Searchlight also has six television shows on the way with stars and directors that include Keira Knightley, Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”) and Darren Aronofsky.

Thomas E. Rothman, who is now Sony’s movie chief. At the time, specialty films — auteur-minded cinematic trinkets — were raking in money at the box office. “The Full Monty,” released by Searchlight in 1997, cost $3.5 million to make and took in $258 million worldwide (or nearly $430 million in today’s money). Over the years, market conditions changed markedly, particularly in the late 2000s, when an economic downturn dried up production financing.

As competitors like Rogue Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Picturehouse and Miramax faded away, Ms. Utley and Mr. Gilula kept Searchlight vibrant. Her specialty has been marketing, scripts and casting. He is a distribution ace who co-founded the Landmark Theaters chain in 1974. “There has never been a spreadsheet that Steve didn’t love,” Ms. Utley said dryly.

Aside from exquisite cinematic taste, the two executives, who both hail from the Midwest, are the rarest of species in Hollywood: genuinely nice people. Neither craves the spotlight. They are widely known in the film industry for campaigning for awards with integrity.

“Hopefully, we have set an example,” Mr. Gilula said, “showing that you don’t have to be the other kind of person to be successful in this business.”

Both insisted that Disney’s takeover of Searchlight (called Fox Searchlight while owned by Mr. Murdoch) played no role in their decision to retire.

“We were frustrated at Fox because Fox just didn’t have a streaming strategy and was very slow to react to marketplace changes,” Ms. Utley said, adding, “I think the transition to Disney has gone really smoothly, which is one reason I have all the faith in the world about the future of Searchlight.”

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The Oscars Are a Week Away, but How Many Will Watch?

Mr. Soderbergh did acknowledge that there is only so much the producers can do.

“People’s decision-making process on whether to watch or not doesn’t seem to be connected to whether or not the show is fantastic or not,” he said, pointing to the strong critical response for this year’s Grammys, which notably featured a risqué performance by Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B.

The Oscars telecast, on the other hand, saw its ratings peak in 1998, when 57.2 million people tuned in to see the box office juggernaut “Titanic” sweep to best-picture victory. Since the turn of the century, the most highly rated year was 2004, when the academy honored another box office behemoth, “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

Analysts point to a litany of challenges propelling the decline. Old broadcast networks like ABC are not as relevant, especially to young people. The ceremonies, even if kept to a relatively brisk three hours, are too long for contemporary attention spans. Last year’s Oscars ran three hours and 36 minutes (the equivalent of 864 videos on TikTok).

Why slog through the show when you can just watch snippets on Twitter and Instagram?

Moreover, the Oscars have become overly polished and predictable. “The Oscars used to be the only time when you got to see movie stars in your living room, and very frequently it was a hoot,” Ms. Basinger, the Hollywood historian, said. “Some seemed a little drunk. Some wore weird clothes. A few had hair hanging in their face.”

Increasingly, the ceremonies are less about entertainment honors and more about progressive politics, which inevitably annoys those in the audience who disagree. One recent producer of the Oscars, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential metrics, said minute-by-minute post-show ratings analysis indicated that “vast swaths” of people turned off their televisions when celebrities started to opine on politics.

And there is simply awards show fatigue. There are at least 18 televised ceremonies each year, including the MTV Video Music Awards, BET Awards, Teen Choice Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, CMT Music Awards, Tony Awards, People’s Choice Awards, Kids’ Choice Awards and Independent Spirit Awards.

With ratings expected to tumble for the coming telecast, ABC has been asking for $2 million for 30 seconds of advertising time, down about 13 percent from last year’s starting price. Some loyal advertisers (Verizon) are returning, but others (Ferrero chocolates) are not.

“We’re really not getting much advertiser interest,” said Michelle Chong, planning director at Atlanta-based agency Fitzco, “and it’s not something we’ve been pushing.”

Tiffany Hsu contributed reporting.

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Since the Oscar-Nominated ‘Collective,’ Much and Little Has Changed

BUCHAREST, Romania — On Oct. 30, 2015, a fire ripped through a nightclub in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, leaving 64 people dead. Almost six years later, a documentary about the fire and its tragic aftermath has been nominated for two Oscars.

It would be the first Oscar win for the Eastern European country, but the film’s success is bittersweet for many Romanians, given its painful subject matter — particularly since many believe not enough has changed since 2015.

“Collective,” which has been nominated for best documentary feature and best foreign film, follows a group of investigative journalists from a sports newspaper as they uncover painful truths about the Romanian health care system.

a review for The New York Times late last year, Manohla Dargis described “Collective” as a “staggering documentary” that offered “no moment when you can take an easy breath, assured that the terrible things you’ve been watching onscreen are finally over.”

For people in Romania, however, much of what is shown onscreen is painfully familiar.

Catalin Tolontan, then the editor in chief of the daily newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor, is one of the main protagonists of “Collective.” Before the documentary, “We used to receive 10 or 15 messages per day from the public, with scoops or information,” he said in an interview. “After the movie we received 70 to 80 a day.”

Earlier this year in Mongolia, when a woman with Covid-19 was transferred from the hospital in freezing temperatures just days after giving birth, journalists began asking tough questions of the government, apparently encouraging one another on Facebook by referencing “Collective,” which a local television station had shown days earlier. Protests followed, and the government ultimately resigned.

“If you are a journalist in a small country and saw ‘Spotlight,’ you could say, ‘Well, this is the U.S., they have a lot of resources, they have a strong democracy, they have a bond between the public and government,’” Tolontan, the newspaper editor, said. “But if you are in Mongolia or the Czech Republic, Indonesia, and you saw this movie, you think ‘They’re like us.’”

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” “Beyond the Hills” and “Child’s Pose” have received top awards at international festivals over the years, but none has won an Oscar.

Andrei Gorzo, a Romanian film critic, said that it was harder for Romanian viewers to see “Collective” as a morally clear-cut tale of a few good people fighting to change the rotten system.

Instead, he said, it captures a specific moment in Romania, when urban, middle-class voters believed in a new breed of politician, young and unsullied, who could clean up Romanian politics. “It is impossible for me to watch the film without acknowledging that a lot of that romanticism has turned sour since then,” he said.

Others are more optimistic.

“The generation that will change things here is not the generation that is 35-plus,” Nanau said. “It’s the younger generation, and these are the people that write to us, that we have met in the cinemas.”

Tolontan said he saw “Collective” as “a point of no return” for Romanian society.

Whether the film wins at the Oscars ceremony next month, many Romanians still hope that the film’s biggest impact will be at home, and that they can leave its content in the past.

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‘Quo Vadis, Aida?’: Jasmila Zbanic on Dramatizing Genocide

LONDON — Jasmila Zbanic, a Bosnian film director, remembers the exact moment she heard something had gone horribly wrong in Srebrenica, a small town in her native country that was the site of the worst atrocity of the Balkan Wars.

Those conflicts accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and in Bosnia — where Muslims and ethnic Serbs and Croats had long been living — people suddenly found themselves in an ethnic war.

In July 1995, the Bosnian-Serb army overran Srebrenica, meant to be a United Nations safe haven. Zbanic, then a student, learned the city had been attacked while staying in Vermont, having temporarily escaped the war for an internship at a theater.

It was a while before she learned that soldiers had separated around 8,000 Muslim men and boys from their families in the town, then murdered them. But she already knew the violence that was likely to ensue when the army took over a city.

was nominated for best international feature at the Academy Awards, building on similar success at the BAFTAs, Britain’s version of the Oscars, where Zbanic was nominated for best director. The film is available to rent on Amazon Video.

Zbanic was 17 when the Bosnian war began, she said. She had always wanted to be a director, having grown up next to a movie theater in Sarajevo, the nation’s capital, and studied filmmaking at the city’s film and theater academy throughout the war. Her classes there continued even though Sarajevo was under siege, meaning they rarely had electricity and she had to risk being shot by snipers whenever she left home. “Every time the electricity came on for a few days, we’d watch films like a crazy marathon,” she said.

Grbavica,” her debut, is about a woman who was raped during the war and is bringing up the child conceived in that assault. It won top prize at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, marking her as one of Bosnia’s most prominent filmmakers. The later “For Those Who Can Tell No Tales” follows an Australian tourist who stays at a Bosnian spa, only to learn it was the site of war crimes.

She often thought about making a film about the Srebrenica massacre, Zbanic said, but really hoped someone else would first. “It was too much, emotionally,” she said.

Five years ago, she said she finally felt able to make it herself, including being able to deal with any potential criticism from nationalistic Serbian newspapers and politicians, in and outside Bosnia, some of whom deny the massacre was a genocide or play down its extent. Mladen Grujicic, the mayor of Srebrenica, is an ethnic Serb who has been accused of denying that the massacre was a genocide (Grujicic did not respond to an interview request for this article).

called her “a hater of Serbs”). A handful of people also posted negative comments on film review sites like Google and IMDB questioning its accuracy (“Large misinformation, national hatred etc” reads a typical one).

writing on the website of the Serbian Film Center, a government-funded body, called it “easily one of the best regional films of recent years” and praised it for being made “without the usual national-nationalist colors.”

Zbanic was adamant the film is not about blame or revenge. “Serbia is not what their government is,” she said. “It never was.” She made the film, she said, because she wants to “share at least one percent of the pain” of mothers still looking for their children’s bodies, and because she also wants young people in the Balkans to see what really happened at Srebrenica so they can have more empathy with each one another and no longer be ethnically divided.

For the film’s premiere, she invited about 100 young people — Muslims and ethnic Serbs and Croats — to watch it at a memorial center in Srebrenica. “I cried the whole time when it was screened,” Sladjan Tomic, 25, a Bosnian-Serb journalist, said in an email, adding that it showed an honest view of what happened that he didn’t get as a child.

“Unfortunately, there is not much utility in this movie if my Serbian peers do not see it,” he said. But he held out some hope they might do so if it wins the Oscar.

Zbanic said the film’s message wasn’t just about Srebrenica. People need to discuss all genocides, she added, as that’s the only way to learn from them and ensure they never happen again.

“Are we are going to live with eyes closed or eyes open?” Zbanic said. “That’s the question.”

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The Swag Must Go On: Hollywood’s Pandemic Oscar Campaign

Those blocks are typically brimming with voters; Paramount Pictures is there, as is Raleigh Studios, where Netflix rents production space. With most people in Los Angeles still holed up at home, however, the thoroughfare was eerily quiet last Monday at 5:30 p.m. Actual crickets were chirping at Paramount’s closed Bronson Gate, which bore a sign reading, “Per government direction, access to the studio is now restricted.”

Comical at best, absurd at worst?

“The public must be so confused,” Ms. Stone said.

None of the studios or streaming services angling for awards would comment for this article. Campaigning, while commonplace, remains a taboo subject. No film company wants to look as if it is trying to manipulate voters.

It is easy to understand where they are coming from, though.

“Like a political campaign, you have to crest at the right moment,” said Paul Hardart, director of the entertainment, media and technology program at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “You need the maximum exposure at that time. And that’s a hard thing to do. How do you become top of mind at the right time?”

So the swag must go on.

As part of its promotional effort for “Nomadland,” about an impoverished van dweller, Searchlight Pictures sent a bound copy of the screenplay to awards voters. The Hollywood press corps received “Nomadland” wine glasses, a “Nomadland” license plate, “Nomadland” keychains, a “Nomadland” T-shirt and a 5-by-2-foot “Nomadland” windshield sunshade.

To celebrate the film’s Feb. 18 virtual premiere, Searchlight teamed with local small businesses to have a “curated concessions crate” delivered to the homes of invitees. It included artisanal beef jerky, wild berry jam, oranges, pears, dried apricots, dill pickle slices, banana bread, salami (“humanely raised”) and a canister of chocolates.

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