Oscar Glory for ‘Oppenheimer’ Rewards Studio Chief’s Vision


It was a Friday night in January, and Snoop Dogg had just rolled into a cocktail party hosted by Donna Langley, NBCUniversal’s chief content officer and studios chairwoman. His shouted greeting, paired with a jaunty deferential dance, seemed to leave her a bit embarrassed. “We’re here to celebrate filmmakers and films,” Langley told the room a few minutes later. “This is not about me.”

For an executive who ardently prefers to stay in the background — she declined to be interviewed for this article and dispatched a lieutenant to try and kill it — the 2024 Oscar trail has been an awkward one. Like it or not, this moment in Hollywood history is very much about her.

It was Langley who, in a wild bet on a three-hour period drama about a physicist, gave Christopher Nolan the money to make “Oppenheimer.” It won seven Oscars on Sunday, including the ones for director and best picture. Nolan started his acceptance speech for best director by saying, “Donna Langley — thank you for seeing the potential in this.”

Nolan’s film helped Universal be No. 1 at the worldwide box office in 2023, ending an eight-year reign by Disney.Credit…Antony Jones/Getty Images

Da’Vine Joy Randolph won the supporting actress Oscar for her performance as a grieving mother and boarding school cook in “The Holdovers,” which was released by Focus Features, a specialty film studio that Langley also oversees.

In a rare achievement, Universal’s creative dominance has coincided with commercial supremacy: The studio was No. 1 at the worldwide box office in 2023, selling nearly $5 billion in tickets and ending an eight-year reign by Disney. Moreover, Universal reached audiences the old-fashioned way — by serving up movies from a mix of genres, with nary a superhero to be found. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” ($1.4 billion) led the way, followed by “Oppenheimer” ($958 million), “Fast X” ($705 million), “Five Nights at Freddy’s” ($291 million) and “Migration” ($279 million).

Back to top button