White House Nixes New Film Screenings Amidst Concerns of Donor Favoritism

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (UPI)--White House sources told The Hollywood Reporter they are planning to scale back the number of official screenings attended by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The commander-in-chief is to serve as host of a screening of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" at the Kennedy Center in Washington Wednesday.

However, the Idris Elba-starring, Nelson Mandela bio-picture could be the last such event for a while as Obama's staffers are trying to avoid having him used as a pawn in the Academy Awards competition, the entertainment industry trade newspaper said.

"After 'Mandela,' that's it," a person familiar with the plan told THR.

Other films Obama's administration has supported with official screenings include the dramas "42," "Lincoln," "Silver Linings Playbook," "The Help" and the documentary "Bully."

Some critics of Obama's selection for high-profile screenings have said the president appears to favor films made by The Weinstein Co., whose principals were big supporters of his campaigns, while studios such as Fox Searchlight, which were not, have been snubbed. Searchlight is distributing the celebrated period picture "12 Years a Slave," but it has not been officially screened by the White House, the report said.

"We were requested to send a print to the White House, and we did," Fox Searchlight's executive vice president of marketing, Michelle Hooper, told THR.

"If you look at the films they do invite for the big event screenings, it's obvious you can buy your way into the White House," another executive associated with "Slave" told the newspaper. "We were not big donors to Obama. Do we wish they would have us? Of course. But it's not that important."

THR pointed out, however, that The Weinstein Co.'s critically acclaimed civil-rights-era drama, "Lee Daniels' The Butler," which is also generating Oscar buzz, was not officially screened at the White House either.


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