October 5, 2022

What Will Apple Do With Will Smith’s ‘Emancipation’?

Though Mr. Smith can still be nominated for his work, the reaction to the slap means the Oscar chances for “Emancipation” have dimmed exponentially.

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Indeed, there are some in the film industry who believe that releasing “Emancipation” along with other Oscar contenders this year will only anger academy voters who were embarrassed by Mr. Smith’s actions.

Bill Kramer, the newly installed chief executive of the film academy, said on a recent call with reporters that next year’s show will not dwell on the slap, even in joke form. “We want to move forward and to have an Oscars that celebrates cinema,” he said. “That’s our focus right now.”

The presence of “Emancipation” would make that difficult. Stephen Gilula, the former co-chief executive of Fox Searchlight, the studio behind such Oscar winners as “12 Years a Slave” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” said releasing the film in the awards corridor between now and the end of the year, would put undue pressure on the movie and make the slap the center of the conversation.

“Regardless of the quality of the movie, all of the press, all the reviewers, all of the feature writers, all the awards prognosticators are going to be looking at it and talking about the slap,” Mr. Gilula said in an interview. “There’s a very high risk that the film will not get judged on its pure merit. It puts it into a very untenable context.”

To some, the film may be too good to keep quiet. Apple set up a general audience test screening of “Emancipation” in Chicago earlier this year, according to three people with knowledge of the event who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss it publicly. They said it generated an overwhelmingly positive reaction, specifically for Mr. Smith’s performance, which one of the people called “volcanic.” Audience members, during the after-screening feedback, said they were not turned off by Mr. Smith’s recent public behavior.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/18/business/media/will-smith-emancipation-apple-tv.html

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