After Bidding War, Will Smith’s New Movie Is Heading To Streaming

Bad Boys For Life Will Smith walks through a wrecked crime scene

If you’ve got the right project, or if you’re a clever enough seller, you can make a killing at Cannes. Just a couple days after Will Smith’s new movie Emancipation was announced as being up for grabs at this year’s Virtual Cannes Market, a deal has been made to land the film at a brand new streaming home. If you’re looking forward to seeing who won in the bidding war that saw Warner Bros and Apple as the last parties standing, Apple TV+ is the horse that’s won this particular race.

While there’s no final figure attached to the end result, THR got wind that Emancipation had landed as an Apple TV+ exclusive, with Will Smith as the film’s star and director Antoine Fuqua as the helmer for the project. This makes the Civil War drama, focused on the true life story of an escaped slave turned Union soldier Peter, the third major acquisition for the relatively young streamer, right behind this month’s Tom Hanks military thriller Greyhound and Martin Scorsese’s next drama Killers of the Flower Moon.

The rights to Emancipation were rumored to be in the range of $130 Million, which means the Cannes record that Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith’s project was looking to break may have indeed been broken. One has to imagine that the reason Apple TV+ will be the new home for this particular project is because, much like any other streaming giant, the wide dearth of original narrative films for the platform justifies the big spend.

It's undoubtedly Apple’s intention to mix it up in the prestigious awards season circles a film like Emancipation will more than likely start to swim in upon release. The picture becomes even more clear why this Will Smith vehicle has generated such buzz, as Emancipation’s story is all about Peter’s escape from captivity, and the tactics he used to stay one step ahead of his pursuers. Being billed as more of an action thriller than straight historical biopic, it almost sounds like something similar in tone to last year’s Harriet Tubman biopic, Harriet.

Sadly, there’s no mention of a potential release date, as Emancipation’s bidding war took place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. With that particular complication, it’s probably difficult to scope out just when Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith will be able to get things into motion and make this harrowing story of historic escape. And there’s of course the obvious stumbling block of the current film on Smith’s plate, the tennis biopic King Richard, needing to be completed for its November 19, 2021 release.

While Emancipation sounds like an exciting project for both Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith fans to anticipate, it sounds like it’s going to be a little while before things get underway. But as soon as further details are to be had, trust that CinemaBlend will break the news as soon as it comes.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.