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Spike Lee’s ‘Chi-Raq’ Gets a Theatrical Release Date (Oscar-Qualifying Run?)

Spike Lee's 'Chi-Raq' Gets a Theatrical Release Date (Oscar-Qualifying Run?)

Possibly in consideration of an Awards season run (pre-screenings for the film have apparently impressed audiences so far) as an Oscar-qualifying run, Amazon Studios has set the release date for Spike Lee’s curious “‘Chi-Raq,” for December 4, in a theatrical release deal that involves both Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate (another sign that expectations for the film are high).

As reported earlier this year, a 2016 Cannes Film Festival debut was initially eyed, but Lee and Amazon have been very high on the project, that they instead opted for a spot in this year’s awards race. Following a qualifying run in December, the movie will likely officially open wider after the new year, and possibly become available on Amazon for Prime subscribers to stream (unlike Netflix, which made its Oscar contender, “Beasts of No Nation,” a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release).

“Chi-Raq” was said to be a “working title” – meaning, it might be called something else entirely for the film’s eventual release, which would make sense, given all the criticism Spike has faced over the use of the derogatory term, in reference to Chicago (the city at the center of the story he’s telling). But this close to its release, I’m assuming there won’t be any title change.

The solid cast for the film includes star Teyonah Parris, as well as Angela Bassett, Harry Lennix, Steve Harris, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, D.B. Sweeney, John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson and Nick Cannon.

In what could be a breakout-starring role, Teyonah Parris is playing the central character, in a story set against the backdrop of Chicago’s gun violence, and said to be a modern spin on the Greek comedy “Lysistrata” – in short, the women of Greece refused to have sex with their husbands, all in an effort to bring an end to the Peloponnesian War, via the signing of a peace treaty. In Spike’s film, the story will center on a woman’s quest to end gang warfare in Chicago, likely via similar methods as used by Lysistrata; i.e., no sex for the brothas in the middle of the gang war, until the violence ends… and it all unfolds as a musical comedy.

Written by Spike Lee and writer/director Kevin Willmott (“C.S.A.: Confederate States Of America”), “Chi-Raq” will shed light on “the serious, but often overlooked issue of violence in inner city Chicago.”

“Spike Lee is one of the most distinct and visionary filmmakers of our time,” said Ted Hope, Head of Motion Picture Production at Amazon Studios at the time of the film’s pick-up. “It would be impossible to find a better filmmaker with whom to launch our studio. He has a unique voice, a distinct eye, and he tackles important subjects with humor and heart, pointing to solutions and not exploiting the problems. ‘Chi-Raq’ may be his greatest, and definitely his boldest film yet–everything about it is distinctive.”

“I’m honored to be part of the film that will launch Amazon Studios and to tell a story that is so important. Please don’t be fooled by the title of ‘Chi-Raq.’ This new Spike Lee joint will be something very special. We have assembled a stellar cast,” added Spike Lee.

First announced in January, Amazon Original Movies is an initiative by Amazon to produce and acquire original movies for theatrical release and early window distribution exclusively for Prime members. Independent film elder statesman Ted heads creative development and production at the studio. Bob Berney recently joined the Amazon Original Movies team to lead theatrical distribution and marketing efforts and will be managing third-party distributors.

Today’s news means that a trailer should be arriving very soon, and I can’t wait!

Deadline was first to report the news of the film’s release date & strategy.

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