Ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, 13 cities across the United States have joined a campaign by African-American business leaders to provide free admission to "Selma," a film based on a three-month period in the life of the late civil rights leader.
Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans, the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C. are the latest five cities to join a group that also includes Boston, Nashville and New York, where theaters are participating in the gratis offering.
The idea began in New York, where 27 African-American business leaders created a fund for 27,000 of the city's 7th, 8th and 9th grade students to see the film for free, according to a release by Paramount Pictures, which is distributing the film. The program in New York sold out in its first weekend and was expanded to 75,000 tickets.
"This initiative is unprecedented in African-American history," Henry Louis Gates, professor of African-American studies at Harvard, said in a statement. "Never before has a group of black leaders donated the funds to enable students across the country to view a film created by a black director [Ava DuVernay] for free."