As late in the game as it came during 2014, Ava DuVernay's Selma has made itself an awards front runner. While Paramount has been seen to be underplaying DuVernay's well-reviewed civil rights drama, it's already scored big at the Golden Globes. With a wide release slated for January 9th, the film seems poised to make a last minute push for Oscar greatness. Still, a good publicity push couldn't hurt, and that's just what seems to be on the menu, as Selma is going to be showing for free in the town where it's title originates.
Variety has reported that Selma will be showing free of charge at a theatrical venue in Selma, Alabama. The Selma Walton Theater will be showing the film as of its wide release date, which will most definitely draw a huge crowd of locals in to partake in a piece of their own local history. In announcing the screenings, Oprah Winfrey, a co-star and producer of Selma, explained why this film is so important that Paramount would want to give away admission in the film's namesake town.
"With deep gratitude to the people of Selma, Alabama, we are proud to share this powerful film depicting the historic events that took place there 50 years ago. I hope generations will watch the film and share their stories of remembrance and history together."
While giving away admission to Selma in Alabama is a huge publicity coup for the Oscar contender, it's a move that may not automatically translate to votes for nominations. After all, New York and Los Angeles are usually the hot areas that Oscar campaigns need to center on, and focusing solely on Alabama is a farily small strategy when it comes to Academy votes. The trump card that Selma has, besides being a well reviewed film, however, is the fact that it's a film that deals with a matter of historical importance.
Looking at past Oscar history, there are two types of films that are natural front runners for the Best Picture race: historical dramas, and films that deal with show business. Birdman fills the latter category, while quite a few titles fill in the historical drama category. Still, Selma has a good chance of being nominated and possibly winning the Best Picture honors at this year's Academy Awards for one huge reason: modern relevance. It's not hard to see how Selma is a film that lends itself to talking about the state of race relations in this modern world, and when a film can attach itself to the news of the day so readily, it's a film that generates its own buzz – studio push or not.
Selma is undoubtedly an important film, both in and out of the awards season shuffle, and its free screenings in Alabama will definitely bring some much needed attention to the film's profile. Will it be enough to push it onto equal footing with current front runner The Imitation Game? Time will definitely tell.
Selma is in limited release now, with wide release being initiated on January 9th.