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There are first dates — and then there are first dates that have the chance to impact history.
One such encounter is detailed in first-time feature director Richard Tanne’s new movie Southside With You, chronicling President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama’s first date in 1989 when they were young lawyers at the same Chicago firm.
Southside With You, opening in U.S. theaters this weekend, has earned glowing reviews since making its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The film stars Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter.
Thanks to the strong critical reaction and a successful screening program — not to mention President Obama’s surging approval rating in the waning days of his administration — partners Miramax and Roadside Attractions have quietly decided to open Southside With You nationwide, versus a platform run, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The pic has booked 801 theaters to date, include numerous locations in major markets including Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Southside With You is projected to do well among African-American women, art house audiences and general consumers feeling nostalgic about the end of the Obama presidency.
So far, the Obamas haven’t publicly commented on the film, but it has been made available to them for viewing via the Motion Picture Association of America, which routinely provides movies to the White House.
John Legend, a pal of the presidential couple, is an executive producer of Southside With You and last week told reporters that he’s recommended President Obama and the first lady “check it out soon.” He added, however, that he understands why it could be tough to watch yourself being played by someone else on the big screen.
“Richard’s intelligent and heartfelt homage to a brief moment in time simply swept us away,” said Miramax film and TV chief Zanne Devine. “We can’t wait to share Richard’s vision with a wider and more diverse audience.”
Southside With You will be one of Roadside’s widest releases ever. Miramax and Roadside picked up U.S. rights to the film from IM Global out of Sundance.
“The movie is definitely a unique experience. I love the Obamas, so that was a big part of my excitement,” said Roadside co-president Howard Cohen. “Also it’s a great film in and of itself about a pair of public figures. It never feels awkward, and it’s not overtly political.”
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