The question of whether the Amazon Original Movies feature “Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq” would get an Oscar-qualifying run in theaters before making its streaming debut is now moot. Today, it was revealed that the film will get an exclusive theatrical release in the U.S. via Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate beginning on Dec. 4. The news was first reported by Deadline.
Amazon did not reveal when “Chi-Raq” will debut on its streaming service, but it will reportedly be shopping international distribution rights to the film at next week’s American Film Market in Santa Monica, Ca., via the sales arm of IM Global.
Written by Lee and the film’s director, Kevin Willmott (“The Jayhawkers,” “Destination Planet Negro”), “Chi-Raq” wrapped production in Chicago in early July. It is rumored to be a modern-day reimagining of the Greek comedy “Lysistrata,” but the only official word on its plot is that it will focus on inner-city violence in the Windy City. The film stars Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson.
The news of “Chi-Raq”’s exclusive theatrical bow comes on the heels of competitor Netflix’s day-and-date theatrical and streaming release of writer/director Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation” on Oct. 16. Although Netflix boasted that three million people watched the movie online (or at least hit play), it earned only $50,699 in 31 theaters in the U.S. during its opening weekend, for an average of $1,635 a screen. In contrast, the weekend’s top box office performer, “The Martian,” earned $15.73 million in 3,504 theaters in its fourth week of release, for a per screen average of $4,490.
Amazon launched Amazon Original Movies in January to acquire films for theatrical release and early window digital distribution on its Prime Instant Video subscription service. “Chi-Raq” is the first film announced under the Original Movies banner.