In the early part of 2022, as film fans started to look towards what might be the big awards-season favorites, “Emancipation” seemed to be on a lot of Most Anticipated lists. But then, at the Oscars, Will Smith assaulted Chris Rock on stage, and the idea that Apple TV+ would release “Emancipation” seemed like an insane prospect. Well, with fan sentiment surrounding Smith not getting much better, it seems like Apple TV+ is thinking that maybe it doesn’t make sense to hold “Emancipation” much longer.
According to a new report from The New York Times, folks within Apple TV+ are discussing the idea of perhaps releasing “Emancipation” in theaters this December, just in time for awards consideration. The drama is directed by Antoine Fuqua and stars Will Smith as a slave in 19th century America who is on the run from his captors and becomes well-known after his abuse scars are shown in a newspaper. As mentioned, the film seemed like a sure-thing awards contender when Apple TV+ forked over $120 million for the chance to distribute the film. Alas, that situation got muddied after The Slap at the Oscars earlier this year.
As the report claims, there seems to be no real way to win when it comes to releasing “Emancipation.” On the one hand, you have a film that has a bit of buzz and could instantly become an awards favorite this year. But if you release the film and it earns Oscar nominations, will the Academy be upset? Especially considering it’ll only be one year removed from the drama. And what would a publicity run for “Emancipation” look like? Would Will Smith be involved? That’s unclear. On the other hand, does it even make sense to hold onto a film that had such a huge price tag because there’s concern about a toxic lead actor? Maybe this release would go a long way in helping recover Smith’s public image.
Again, lots of questions and no real, obvious answers. One thing is certain, Apple TV+ has a big decision to make with lots of money at stake. As of now, “Emancipation” doesn’t have a release date.