ending his popular, nine-film “Madea” series in 2019, Perry has focused on making television shows like “Bruh,” “Sistahs” and “The Oval” for BET. He owns a studio in Atlanta.

The Dolby Theater, which holds more than 3,000 people and has been the home of the Academy Awards since 2001, was not the epicenter of the telecast. This year, with just the nominees and their guests in attendance, an Art Deco, Mission Revival train station in downtown Los Angeles served as the main venue.

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Oscars 2021: What to Watch For

LOS ANGELES — Preventing the TV ratings from plunging to an alarming low, while celebrating movies that, for the most part, have not connected widely with audiences. Attempting to jump-start theatergoing when most of the world is more than a year out of the habit. Integrating live camera feeds from more than 20 locations to comply with coronavirus safety restrictions.

This is going to be one hard-working Academy Awards ceremony.

The surreal 93rd edition — a stage show broadcast on television about films mostly distributed on the internet — will finally arrive Sunday night. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences delayed the event, which typically takes place in February, in hopes of outrunning the pandemic. Still, the red carpet had to be radically downsized and the extravagant parties canceled.

The night could go down in Hollywood history for happier reasons, however. The famed “and the Oscar goes to” envelopes could contain these names: Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya and Yuh-Jung Youn. If that happens, as some awards handicappers have predicted, it would be the first time that people of color swept the acting Oscars — an indication that the film industry has kept its promise in response to the #OscarsSoWhite movement and implemented meaningful reforms.

Voters, of course, could always veer in other directions. Is this the year that Glenn Close, a supporting actress nominee for “Hillbilly Elegy,” finally gets to take home a little gold dude? Or will she tie Peter O’Toole’s sad record for eight winless nominations? Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) or Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) could edge past Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) to win best actress. And a posthumous best actor win for Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) has lately been less of a sure thing thanks to a surge of academy support for Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”).

sharp-elbowed awards campaigners keep whiffing in the end.

Last year, the company’s best-picture hopes rested on “The Irishman.” It failed to convert even one of its 10 nominations into a win. In 2019, Netflix pushed “Roma.” It won three Oscars, including one for Alfonso Cuarón’s direction, but lost the big prize.

On Sunday — despite the pandemic hastening the rise of streaming services — Netflix is poised to three-peat as a best-picture loser, with its two nominees, “Mank” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” expected to be eclipsed by “Nomadland,” about a grief-stricken woman retreating to the margins of society. It hails from Searchlight, a division of the Walt Disney Company.

There is a chance that women will shine in both writing categories.

Emerald Fennell is the favorite to win the Oscar for best original screenplay for “Promising Young Woman,” a visceral revenge drama, having triumphed at the Writers Guild Awards. Fennell, a first-time nominee, would be the first woman to win solo in the category since Diablo Cody (“Juno”) in 2007. As for adapted screenplay, Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) is in a tight race with Florian Zeller (“The Father”). If Zhao joins Fennell in the winner’s column, it will be the first time that two solo women win the writing prizes in the same year.

Zhao’s big moment, however, will come toward the end of the ceremony, when she is expected to win the best director Oscar. In 93 years of the Academy Awards, only one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won. The category has also been dominated over the decades by white men, giving recognition of Zhao, who is Chinese, even greater meaning.

Steven Soderbergh is not your usual Oscar producer, which is why he may be the perfect choice for this very unusual year.

As a director who is constantly pushing boundaries with form, subject matter and scope, he is seemingly always on the lookout for a new challenge. And what could be a bigger hurdle than producing the Academy Awards in the middle of the pandemic? He and his producing partners for the event, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins, have eschewed Zoom and implemented enough protocols to enable a mask-free environment for the nominees.

Mr. Soderbergh also keeps referring to the show as a three-act film. The telecast’s writing staff includes the “Surviving R. Kelly” filmmaker Dream Hampton and the veteran writer-director Richard LaGravanese (“The Fisher King”). Presenters are being referred to as “cast members.” (They include Zendaya, Brad Pitt and Bong Joon Ho, last year’s winner for best director.)

The Dolby Theater, which holds more than 3,000 people and has been the home of the Academy Awards since 2001, will not be the epicenter of the telecast. This year, with just the nominees and their guests in attendance, Union Station — the Art Deco, Mission Revival transit hub in downtown Los Angeles — will serve as the main venue.

And if it’s the song performances you love most, then be sure to tune in to the pregame show, since those five performances have been kicked out of the main event.

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After a Glitch, a Relief Fund for Live Events Will Try Again: Live Updates

a technical malfunction prevented the site from accepting any applications.

Now, the Small Business Administration, the agency that runs the program, plans to try again on Saturday.

The agency’s announcement late Thursday night of its timing for restarting the program was immediately met with a deluge of criticism. “People have weekend plans, need child care, have to pay overtime for weekends. This is SO inconsiderate,” one typical reply tweet said.

Because the money will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis — and is widely expected to run out fast — many applicants feel pressured to submit their paperwork as soon as the application system opens.

That will be a particular obstacle for Jewish business owners who observe the Sabbath, which prohibits them from using electronics on Saturdays before sundown. “I’m in shock,” said Dani Zoldan, the owner of Stand Up NY, a comedy club in Manhattan. “There are many Sabbath observers in the performing arts industry. How did they not think through this decision before making this announcement?”

Mr. Zoldan, who is Jewish, hopes the agency will reconsider its decision. He said he would wait until after sunset to submit his application. “It’s been a mess on so many levels. I feel like they’re torturing us,” he said.

The Small Business Administration has not yet said what time on Saturday it plans to open its application portal. The agency said it would provide further details on Friday.

Homes typically sold in 18 days in March, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Credit…Ted Shaffrey/Associated Press

The median sale price of an existing home in the United States was $329,100 in March, up 17.2 percent from a year earlier, when a 3 to 5 percent annual increase is considered healthy, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors, a trade group.

Nationwide, housing inventory was at 1.07 million units at the end of March, just above its record low of 1.03 million the prior month and down 28.2 percent from a year earlier, according to the group.

Sales of new single-family houses soared in March a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.021 million, the Census Bureau reported on Friday. It was the highest level since 2006.

As a result, homes typically sold in 18 days, a record speed. Normally, 60 days is typical, Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist, told Stefanos Chen of The New York Times.

When the housing market peaks will depend largely on where you live and how the pandemic continues to reorder buyer priorities, but it will hinge on two trends: rising mortgage rates and incredibly tight inventory in some markets, which will likely keep demand strong through the rest of 2021, even as price growth moderates, several analysts said.

In Manhattan, where commercial real estate was battered and home buyers fanned outward to surrounding suburbs in search of affordability and more space, the sales market fell off at the beginning of the pandemic but appears to have turned the corner.

“The rate at which homes are selling nationally is not sustainable, but in New York, the uptick is just getting started,” said Nancy Wu, an economist for StreetEasy, a listing website.

In the week ending April 11, there were 783 new signed contracts citywide, the highest since the company began tracking weekly pending sales in 2019, when the peak was 491 contracts, she said.

Preparations for the Academy Awards last year, when viewership was down 20 percent from 2019. It is expected to be even lower this year.
Credit…Josh Haner/The New York Times

ABC has sold out its advertising inventory for the pandemic-delayed Academy Awards on Sunday, with companies like Google, General Motors, Rolex and Verizon spending an estimated $2 million for each 30-second spot, according to media buyers — only a slight decline from last year’s pricing even though the television audience is expected to be sharply smaller.

Rita Ferro, president of Disney Advertising Sales, which sells ads on Disney-owned ABC, announced the sellout. She declined to comment on pricing or say how much revenue Disney will generate from the telecast. Last year, the Oscars pulled in about $129 million across 56 ads, according to Kantar Media, a research firm. (A red-carpet preshow attracted $16.3 million across 42 ads.)

Additional revenue comes from “integrations” and other sponsorships. For the first time, for instance, ABC will have a sponsor for closed-captioning (Google). The upshot: ABC’s revenue for the telecast is estimated to have declined only 3 to 5 percent from last year — a tiny drop compared with the expected 50 to 60 percent decline in viewing.

The ceremony is “one of those big cultural moments,” Andrew McKechnie, Verizon’s chief creative officer, said of the company’s decision to buy ad space. “The broadcast this year will be a bit different,” he acknowledged, “but the event will still be an impactful one and an important one for us to show up in.”

Last year, about 23.6 million people watched “Parasite” win the Academy Award for best picture, according to Nielsen data. That was a 20 percent drop from the previous year and a record low. On Sunday, nine million to 12 million people are expected to tune in.

Audiences have been turning away from awards telecasts for years, but ratings have nose-dived during the pandemic. Without live audiences, the shows have been drained of their energy. Big studios have also postponed major movies, leaving this year’s awards scene to downbeat art films.

ABC does not guarantee an audience size to Oscar advertisers, thus removing any potential for so-called make-goods — additional commercial time at a later date — if ratings tumble.

ABC has been able to keep ad rates high in part because of the fragmentation of television viewing. Oscars night is a shadow of its former self — it attracted 57 million viewers in 1998 — but still pulls in one of the largest audiences on broadcast television, certainly for a nonsports telecast. New advertisers this year include Apartments.com and Freshpet dog and cat food. Expedia and Adidas have bought commercial time to introduce new campaigns.

“We’re very pleased with where we are,” Ms. Ferro said, citing “the quantity, the caliber and the diversity of the advertisers in the show.”

A bitcoin ATM in an Istanbul shopping mall. Many Turks have turned to cryptocurrencies as a hedge against inflation.
Credit…Chris Mcgrath/Getty Images

A cryptocurrency exchange in Turkey suspended operations this week amid accusations of fraud, freezing an estimated $2 billion in investors’ money, and authorities said they were seeking the company’s founder.

Turkish authorities raided offices in Istanbul associated with Thodex, a cryptocurrency trading platform, on Friday morning and arrested more than 60 people, the private news agency Demiroren reported.

Thodex’s 27-year-old founder, Faruk Fatih Ozer, left Turkey for Albania on Tuesday, Turkish authorities said, who added that they were seeking his extradition.

The cryptocurrency firm has nearly 400,000 active users whose accounts were nominally worth a total of $2 billion, according to Oguz Evren Kilic, a lawyer in Ankara who is representing Thodex investors. If their money has gone missing, the losses would add another element of instability to Turkey’s already shaky economy.

Living standards in Turkey suffer from double-digit inflation and a wobbly currency. Though cryptocurrencies are inherently risky, many Turks have turned to them as a way to protect their savings as the Turkish lira lost more than one-quarter of its value against the dollar in the last year.

Last week, Turkey’s central bank banned the use of cryptocurrencies for purchases, citing the “significant risks” involved.

Thodex had promoted itself with ads that featured female Turkish celebrities dressed in bright red outfits and draped over a highly polished black automobile.

“For sure the economic situation has an affect on this,” Mr. Kilic, the lawyer, said in an interview. “In such times of crisis, people want to diminish the loss of value of the assets they have.”

The sagging lira has raised the cost of imported goods and fueled inflation, leading to a steady erosion in living standards. In March, the annual rate of inflation was 16 percent, according to official figures, which many economists say understate the true rate.

In a statement on Thodex’s website, Mr. Ozer, the firm’s founder, insisted he had left the country merely to consult with foreign investors and would return. He said the accusations were a “smear campaign” and blamed the shutdown of the trading platform on a cyberattack.

Thodex “has not victimized anyone,” he said, adding that only about 30,000 accounts “have a suspicious situation.”

Mr. Kilic noted that none of Thodex’s customers could gain access to their accounts. “If you cannot access the account, then you are a victim,” he said.

On Twitter, people reacted to a statement from Thodex with crying face emojis. “There are people who trust and invest everything in you,” one user wrote.

“Companies are reading the writing on the wall,” said Thomas DiNapoli, New York State’s comptroller and trustee for the state’s public pension fund.
Credit…Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

The riot at the Capitol in January prompted a reckoning on corporate political donations that will be a prominent feature of proxy season, with many shareholder proposals demanding greater disclosure of company spending. And shareholders already seem to be meeting with more success than in previous years, the DealBook newsletter reports.

“Companies are reading the writing on the wall,” said Thomas P. DiNapoli, New York State’s comptroller and trustee for the state’s public pension fund. “Political and social polarization are bad for their business, and they need to decide if political donations are worth the risk.”

“Time will tell if their increased attention to these issues is lip service or if it represents a sincere change in corporate culture,” Mr. DiNapoli said. “At a minimum, investors need disclosure of this spending.”

New York’s public pension fund is the third-largest in the United States, and since 2010, it has filed more than 155 shareholder proposals on political spending, winning more than 40 adoptions or agreements, including from Bank of America, Delta Air Lines and PepsiCo. Three of five resolutions it has advanced this year have already been withdrawn, with the companies agreeing to make changes without putting them to a vote. That’s a 60 percent hit rate, and companies that wouldn’t engage before are now at least responsive, a spokesman for the fund said.

The fund got CMS Energy, a Michigan public utility, to agree to be more transparent about political spending, DealBook is first to report; First Energy, an Ohio utility, and the multinational brewer Molson Coors also agreed to more disclosure.

“Companies are now expected to have core values — almost personalities,” said Bruce Freed, the president of the Center for Political Accountability, a nonprofit organization that teams up with shareholders on proposals. Recent agreements, like the ones brokered by Mr. DiNapoli, are a “strong indication” that corporations are feeling “real pressure,” he said. Nine of 30 companies (including those noted above) have agreed this year to provide more disclosure on political donations. Last year, eight of 40 companies facing similar proposals agreed to act instead of putting the question to shareholders in a vote.

The Capitol riot “raised the stakes,” Mr. Freed said, and the pressure on companies has not relented since.

U.S. stocks rose at the start of trading on Friday, following a drop on Thursday after reports that the Biden administration was considering nearly doubling capital gains taxes and other taxes on the rich to fund child care and education projects.

Most European stock indexes were lower. The Stoxx Europe 600 index was down 0.5 percent even as data showed an improvement in manufacturing and services industries in April across the eurozone.

The S&P 500 opened 0.3 percent higher, after a 0.9 percent drop on Thursday. For the week, the benchmark index had fallen 1.2 percent, its first weekly decline in five weeks.

Volkswagen’s new electric ID.4. The company is investing $80 billion to develop E.V.s.
Credit…Bryan Derballa for The New York Times

As many as 100 new electric vehicle models are coming to showrooms by 2025 as automakers insist we’re “this close” to an E.V. tipping point.

But outside of Tesla, the American record for sales of an electric vehicles is the mere 30,200 Leafs that Nissan sold in 2014. A single gasoline sport utility vehicle, the Toyota RAV4, finds well over 400,000 annual buyers, compared with roughly 250,000 sales last year for all E.V.s combined — 200,000 of which were Teslas, Lawrence Ulrich reports for The New York Times.

Globally, Volkswagen is poised to pass Tesla as the world’s biggest electric vehicle seller as early as next year, according to Deutsche Bank, with Europe and China its key markets. In the United States, where the brand remains an underdog, VW and other legacy automakers are concentrating fire on the sales fortress of compact S.U.V.s.

The latest electric-S.U.V. hopefuls to reach showrooms are the VW ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E and Volvo XC40 Recharge. The Nissan Ariya, BMW iX and Cadillac Lyriq are set to arrive between late 2021 and next March.

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ABC Sells Out Ad Time for Oscars, Despited Expected Fall in Viewers

ABC has sold out its advertising inventory for the pandemic-delayed Academy Awards on Sunday, with companies like Google, General Motors, Rolex and Verizon spending an estimated $2 million for each 30-second spot, according to media buyers — only a slight decline from last year’s pricing even though the television audience is expected to be sharply smaller.

Rita Ferro, president of Disney Advertising Sales, which sells ads on Disney-owned ABC, announced the sellout. She declined to comment on pricing or say how much revenue Disney will generate from the telecast. Last year, the Oscars pulled in about $129 million across 56 ads, according to Kantar Media, a research firm. (A red-carpet preshow attracted $16.3 million across 42 ads.)

Additional revenue comes from “integrations” and other sponsorships. For the first time, for instance, ABC will have a sponsor for closed-captioning (Google). The upshot: ABC’s revenue for the telecast is estimated to have declined only 3 to 5 percent from last year — a tiny drop compared with the expected 50 to 60 percent decline in viewing.

The ceremony is “one of those big cultural moments,” Andrew McKechnie, Verizon’s chief creative officer, said of the company’s decision to buy ad space. “The broadcast this year will be a bit different,” he acknowledged, “but the event will still be an impactful one and an important one for us to show up in.”

20 percent drop from the previous year and a record low. On Sunday, nine million to 12 million people are expected to tune in.

Audiences have been turning away from awards telecasts for years, but ratings have nose-dived during the pandemic. Without live audiences, the shows have been drained of their energy. Big studios have also postponed major movies, leaving this year’s awards scene to downbeat art films.

ABC does not guarantee an audience size to Oscar advertisers, thus removing any potential for so-called make-goods — additional commercial time at a later date — if ratings tumble.

ABC has been able to keep ad rates high in part because of the fragmentation of television viewing. Oscars night is a shadow of its former self — it attracted 57 million viewers in 1998 — but still pulls in one of the largest audiences on broadcast television, certainly for a nonsports telecast. New advertisers this year include Apartments.com and Freshpet dog and cat food. Expedia and Adidas have bought commercial time to introduce new campaigns.

“We’re very pleased with where we are,” Ms. Ferro said, citing “the quantity, the caliber and the diversity of the advertisers in the show.”

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HBO Max Gains Traction in a Crowded Field

AT&T added 2.7 million new customers to HBO and HBO Max in the first quarter, a boost for the company’s new streaming effort in an increasingly crowded field.

The company’s WarnerMedia division, which includes HBO, recorded $8.5 billion in revenue for the period, a 9.8 percent jump over last year, when theater sales and advertising revenue plummeted during the pandemic. Led by the chief executive Jason Kilar, WarnerMedia also includes the cable networks CNN and Turner and the Warner Bros. film studios.

HBO is the cornerstone of AT&T’s media strategy, and the company sees HBO Max as a way to keep its mobile customers from fleeing, offering the streaming platform at a discount to its phone subscribers.

In its report on the year’s first quarter, AT&T stopped disclosing the number of active HBO Max users, obscuring how many people are actually tuned into the new streaming service.

reported earnings on Tuesday, remains the leader, with 67 million customers in the U.S. and nearly 208 million in total.

Netflix’s dominance has started to wane, in part because of newer entrants like HBO Max and Disney+. Netflix added four million new subscribers in the quarter, with a little more than 400,000 in the U.S.

Netflix chalked up the comparatively sluggish growth to the production slowdown that came when Hollywood studios largely stopped making new shows and films during the pandemic. The company said it expected a more successful second half of the year, when returning favorites and highly anticipated films become available.

In the case of HBO Max, the streamer likely got a boost from an unorthodox strategy championed by Mr. Kilar: The sibling company Warner Bros. plans to release its entire lineup of 2021 films on HBO Max on the same day they’re scheduled to appear in theaters. The announcement rumbled throughout Hollywood, angering agents and filmmakers who stood to lose out on crucial bonuses and commissions by short-circuiting the old theatrical release schedule.

global expansion of HBO Max starting this June, along with a lower-cost version of the service that will include commercials. The company has about 19.7 million HBO customers overseas that it hopes to convert into HBO Max subscribers.

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Mao Ayuth, Filmmaker Who Survived the Khmer Rouge, Dies at 76

Mao Ayuth, one of the few Cambodian filmmakers to survive the Khmer Rouge era, during which most artists and intellectuals were killed, and who then rose to become secretary of state in the Ministry of Information, died on April 15 in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital. He was 76.

Phos Sovann, a spokesman for the ministry, said the cause was complications of Covid-19.

Mr. Mao Ayuth, who was also a novelist, poet and screenwriter, began his film career in the 1960s and early ’70s, in what became known as a golden age of Cambodian cinema. Filmmaking flourished under the country’s leader at the time, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, an avid cineaste who directed his own films.

Chet Chong Cham” (“I Want To Remember”), a story of survival during the previous decades of civil war and ruin, is told in flashbacks within flashbacks. It, too, proved popular among a people hungry to see scenes from their recent past.

The Cambodian movie industry then experienced what may have been the fastest growth and quickest decline of any in the world. At its peak, the industry produced 167 films in 1990; the number dropped to just 31 in 1994.

One reason was competition from flashier foreign films; another was the advent of television in Cambodia. But the main cause was film piracy. As soon as a film was screened, it would be pirated and taken home on discs. The absence of strong copyright laws continues to debilitate Cambodian cinema.

Mr. Mao Ayuth’s most popular film, “Ne Sat Kror Per” (“The Crocodile”), in 2005, was based loosely on his childhood memories of crocodile hunters, telling the story of a hunt for the mythical Crocodile King.

He was born on July 8, 1944, in Kampong Cham province, in the central lowlands. His father, Men Thoeung, was a commune official. His mother was Tai Sing.

After attending a scriptwriting program in the early 1960s, Mr. Mao Ayuth worked at Cambodia’s first television station, starting as a production assistant and rising to news director.

A decade later he went to France with a stipend from the national television and radio agency. While on a vacation in the Swiss Alps, he used his hand-cranked camera to produce footage that became part of “Beth Phnek Hek Troung.” The winter scenes of mountains, ski lifts and tourists in fur hats were a thrill for Cambodians, who had never seen snow.

He is survived by his widow, So Samony; four daughters, Mao Bophany, Mao Moni Na, Mao Moni Neath and Mao Moni Roath; and one son, Mao Makara.

Mr. Mao Ayuth was appointed secretary of state in the Ministry of Information in 1993. He was also president of the Association of Television Stations of Cambodia.

He was recently selected by Prime Minister Hun Sen to create a film series about Mr. Hun Sen’s life as a poor village boy who rose to become one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, in power now for more than three decades.

Mr. Mao Ayuth was still working on the series at his death, regarding it as a distinct privilege.

“When it is for his honor, we must try hard,” he told reporters in January. “It is a huge honor that the top leader has put trust in us, so we must fulfill our obligations to meet his trust.”

Sun Narin contributed reporting from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley Leaving Searchlight Pictures

LOS ANGELES — One of corporate Hollywood’s most enduring double acts is calling it quits.

Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, senior executives at Searchlight Pictures for 21 of its 27 years, who shaped global culture with Oscar-winning hits like “12 Years a Slave,” “Black Swan,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” announced their surprise retirement on Tuesday. They will leave the Disney-owned specialty studio by the end of June, adding to a conspicuous changing of the guard at Walt Disney Company.

“You don’t want to be the show that stays on the air two seasons too long,” Ms. Utley said. “Get out while everything is still going well.”

She was joking — mostly. Searchlight has long been the gold standard of art film studios, packing its slate with diverse offerings long before Hollywood got the memo, and thriving in a changing marketplace — the DVD collapse, the rise of streaming competitors — even as once-formidable competitors like the Weinstein Company imploded. If the latest Searchlight success, “Nomadland,” wins the Academy Award for best picture on Sunday, as many expect, Mr. Gilula, 70, and Ms. Utley, 65, will have taken the top prize in four of the last eight ceremonies. That is a run unmatched by any specialty studio, even Miramax, which at its height won three best-picture Oscars.

The Shape of Water” (2018), “Birdman” (2015) and “12 Years a Slave” (2014). “Slumdog Millionaire” won in 2009.

The Trial of the Chicago 7.” Netflix has been chasing such a victory for years as the ultimate symbol of supremacy in Hollywood.

Searchlight has been rising to the challenge of streaming. “Nomadland,” from the Chinese-born filmmaker Chloé Zhao, was released in theaters and on Hulu, a Disney streaming service. But competing with Amazon, Apple and Netflix — and their seemingly bottomless wallets — for talent and material has become harder and harder. That has made the art film market more precarious for traditional studios like Searchlight, which will now be run by David Greenbaum and Matthew Greenfield, the current presidents.

“Every time my contract was up, to be candid, I always questioned whether I had the intestinal fortitude to fight through the next set of changes,” Mr. Gilula said. “Ultimately, pride and loyalty kept me going. And there has always been another fantastic film in the pipeline. Well, maybe after ‘Shape of Water,’ maybe after ‘Three Billboards.’ But this is it. With ‘Nomadland,’ which has shown that we haven’t lost our edge at all, adapting quickly to the pandemic, there is a great feeling of fulfillment.”

Robert A. Iger, executive chairman, is departing in December after 26 years at the company. Alan F. Horn, the top creative executive at Walt Disney Studios, has been edging toward retirement, as has Alan N. Braverman, Disney’s top lawyer. Jayne Parker, Disney’s powerful human resources chief, will step down in June after 33 years at the company.

“The people you mentioned have contributed mightily — myself excluded; I’m not talking about myself in this regard — to the success of the company, and in doing so have groomed people behind them who will take over the mantle,” Mr. Iger said. “I try to ease people’s concerns as much as possible. It’s certainly way too premature to express concern.”

Searchlight was one of the assets that Disney acquired from Rupert Murdoch in 2019. Mr. Iger, who orchestrated the deal, heaped praise on Ms. Utley and Mr. Gilula. “It takes a really deft hand to bring these smaller but extremely high-quality films to market, and they have Ph.D.’s in it,” he said.

Does their retirement signal a change in direction for Searchlight? The mini-studio, which has about 100 employees, is beloved by fans of grown-up cinema, especially as Hollywood has leaned harder toward all-audience franchise films.

“No, not at all,” Mr. Iger said. “We haven’t been particularly vocal about this, but we intend for Searchlight to play a big part in supplying content, not just for theaters but for our streaming platforms. We are going to invest more and more. Expect more output rather than less.”

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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Seth Rogen and the Secret to Happiness

He opened his laptop, where the desktop image was the Wu-Tang logo rendered in rainbow colors so that it resembled the ‘80s-era Apple logo. Rogen clicked over to a folder marked ESCAPE, revealing hundreds of documents within. Every time he and Goldberg have an idea for a movie, Rogen explained, they start compiling lists of “ideas for anything: characters, scenes, lines, plot twists, turns — it could be as general as, like, ‘Someone locks themselves in the closet while trying to hide,’ or it could be like, ‘OK, this character’s been this way their whole life. … ’”

Over time, whether they’re in the same room or emailing back and forth, as they’ve done during the pandemic, Rogen and Goldberg sculpt these lists into outlines, then sculpt those outlines into scripts: “You start to say, ‘OK, these 10 things could go together,’” Rogen said. “Or, ‘OK, that’s a chunk of a movie,’ or, ‘If we want all these ideas in the same movie, what’s a character that could support that?’”

He scrolled through the folder. “These are our ‘Escape’ files — oh, Jesus — going back to January 2016,” he said. He glanced at an early list. “This totally changed,” he said, opening another. “These are gags,” he explained. Rogen and Goldberg had collected dozens of Keaton-worthy ideas, which he asked me not to reveal. He scrolled to another document, dated February 2019 and titled “Boarded Action Beats” — “These are gags we started to actually draw,” he said.

Working with an illustrator, Rogen and Goldberg had completed what was in essence a digital flip book diagraming every scene in “Escape.” “We’re literally storyboarding every second of the movie,” Rogen said. One open-ended, three-word gag I’d seen in a list from May 2019 — centered delightfully on something you could buy in a hardware store — had been storyboarded into an elaborate action sequence. Rogen showed it to me frame by frame, narrating as he went. “She’s trying to go from there to there … these guys are chasing her. … ” His finger tapped the right arrow. “She grabs that guy, he’s falling, bam, whoop!

Even in flip-book form, the scene was funny. “We need to know if these jokes are working, and if the timing is right,” Rogen said, “and you can’t do a table read and see if people laugh or not, because that would be me saying, like, ‘He throws the thing, it bounces off the door, it hits him in the face.’” He laughed. “We need to be able to see that!”

There’s a story Mark Rogen tells about the early days of Seth’s career: When the family first moved to L.A., for ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ Seth signed with a manager and a lawyer, and after some time, “his lawyer threatened to fire him, because Seth kept getting offered different gigs and saying, ‘I’m not doing that, that’s not a movie I’d go see and it’s not a movie I’d want my friends to see me in.’”

Rogen’s self-assurance might be the most enviable thing about him: The fact that, with rare exceptions, he has only ever seemed to work on exactly what he wants to work on. Rogen once recalled his friend Jonah Hill’s approaching him for advice after being offered a part in a “Transformers” sequel. “I can see if Steven Spielberg’s calling you, asking you to do something, how that’s hard to turn down,” Rogen told an interviewer, recounting the exchange. But in this case, he told Hill: “You want to make a movie about fightin’ robots? Make your own movie about fightin’ robots. You can do that. That’s on the table now.” This story has an echo in “Yearbook,” in a chapter where Spielberg himself actually invites Rogen and Goldberg to collaborate on a project inspired by the 1984 sci-fi movie “The Last Starfighter.” The same idea had already occurred to them, and they decided they’d rather just make their own version. Rogen isn’t overly concerned in the book with flattering the powerful. There’s also a funny story about George Lucas — that, within moments of meeting Rogen and Goldberg in 2012, he expressed his certitude that the world would end later that year (Lucas, through a representative, denied this account) — and an even funnier story about Nicolas Cage pretending to be a white Bahamian for a possible role in “The Green Hornet,” bellowing improvised dialogue in a Caribbean patois.

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With ‘Knives Out’ Deal, Netflix Signals It’s in the Franchise Business

“The pandemic has really put the streamers head to head with theatrical distribution,” said James Moore, chief executive of Vine Alternative Investments, an asset manager focused on the entertainment industry. “Now you’re seeing the economics really accelerate towards the streamers, and they have both the wherewithal and the strategic need to retain those gains.”

“Knives Out,” with a cast led by Daniel Craig and Chris Evans, earned $311 million at theaters, close to half of it in international markets — the biggest growth opportunity for streaming services. It was one of the few box office winners in the past few years not based on a comic book or on existing intellectual property that was tied up in a lengthy studio deal.

(John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place,” from 2018, is another example. But that R-rated horror film was owned by Paramount, and it was such a box office boon that its sequel was one of the few films the studio held on to during the pandemic. It is scheduled to come out in theaters on Memorial Day weekend.)

For the original “Knives Out,” Mr. Johnson’s representatives at Creative Artists Agency negotiated a one-film licensing agreement with the film’s distributors, MRC and Lionsgate. That deal gave Mr. Johnson and his producing partner, Ram Bergman, control of the franchise and the right to shop future iterations to other parties. (Mr. Craig, who played the arch Southern detective Benoit Blanc in the film, is also an equity participant in the deal.)

The movie is part of a tried-and-true genre — the star-studded whodunit — that has been reinvented in recent years. “Murder Mystery,” starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, was a hit for Netflix in 2019. Kenneth Branagh’s reimagining of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” in 2017 worked well for Disney’s Fox division, pulling in $352 million, including $250 million from the international market. (A follow-up, “Death on the Nile,” has been pushed to 2022, partly because one of its stars, Armie Hammer, has been tarnished by a recent sex scandal.)

The “Knives Out” deal also highlights how much easier it is for a streaming service to exploit an already known title than to build one itself. While Netflix scored big with the 2018 Sandra Bullock film “Bird Box” — it said 89 million households had tuned in to watch the film within four weeks of its release — it is just now gearing up for a sequel, a Spanish-language version that won’t feature the original star.

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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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