EXCLUSIVE: RBG, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg feature documentary that became an out-of-the-box hit upon its release in the spring, gets the honors as the first official 2018 DVD screener sent to members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It landed in most mailboxes today, though it might take a little longer for all those new international members.
Indicative of an exceptionally strong year already for docus, RBG is expected to be a contender in the Best Documentary Feature category. However, it is a little unusual for a docu to be the first screener sent to all Academy members (now numbering about 8200 voters) because even though everyone gets to vote on the final winner, nominations are made exclusively by the Documentary branch — a much smaller group to target.
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Nevertheless, in a letter sent by distributor Magnolia Pictures along with Participant Media and CNN Films, they are urging Academy-side consideration for the film directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen. It probably is smart of Magnolia to get out in front of this so as not to be confused with another potential Oscar contender about Ginsburg, On the Basis of Sex, which stars Felicity Jones as the esteemed future Supreme Court icon in her younger years. Participant is also a producer on that project, which Focus Features opens on Christmas Day.
Being first doesn’t always mean instant success in the race, and in fact early-bird screeners have a mixed track records as Deadline has reported over the years. Last year’s first film out was 20th Century Fox’s Logan, which did manage to score a nomination in the Adapted Screenplay category. In the case of RBG, it is only going for Docu Feature where the competition includes powerhouses like the Mr. Rogers filme Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Three Identical Strangers, both of which have scored huge dividends at the box office and with critics just like like RBG, which became Magnolia’s biggest grosser ever at an impressive nearly $14 million and still counting. The film could also be eligible in the Best Song category for nine time Oscar nominee Diane Warren’s “I’ll FIght” sung over end credits by Jennifer Hudson.
And the race — for screeners at least — is on.
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