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In a new twist, Amazon is partnering with Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate to bring the movie to cinemas in time for an awards run. The Hollywood Reporter first reported that Chi-Raq would get some sort of December theatrical release.
Chi-Raq was originally planned for a world premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, if accepted, but Lee and Amazon were so high on the project, they decided to accelerate the schedule.
Following its debut in theaters, Chi-Raq will be made available relatively quickly to Amazon Prime customers (that’s the plan for all of Amazon’s movies). Initially, Amazon Studios said films would be streamed six to seven weeks after they hit cinemas. If so, most cinema chains would likely refuse to carry Chi-Raq, much as they have refused to play Beasts of No Nation from Netflix.
Chi-Raq, an update of of the classical Greek play Lysistrata, stars Teyonah Parris as a woman who protests black-on-black gun violence by going on a sex strike. It draws its title from the nickname comparing Chicago to Iraq, and has already sparked controversy. (City elders, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, weren’t happy about the name.) Starring alongside Parris are Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, D.B. Sweeney, Harry Lennix, Steve Harris, Angela Bassett, John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson.
The movie is written in a distinct lyrical style — akin to Shakespeare, but more accessible.
Unlike rival Netlfix, Amazon intends to launch its original movies in theaters first, versus a day-and-date release. Still, until theater owners know how quickly Chi-Raq will play on Amazon Prime, many major circuits are unlikely to commit to carrying the film, since they generally demand a three- to- four-month theatrical window.
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