Fox Searchlight has teamed with several independent movie theater chains on a voter registration initiative that will sign up voters in theater lobbies ahead of screenings of the Nat Turner slave rebellion drama The Birth of a Nation.
The initiative kicks off on National Voter Registration Day, September 27, and continues through October 9. Fox Searchlight opens the film nationwide on October 7.
The production company has partnered with organizations including the League of Women Voters, the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation, the North Carolina Black Youth Vote Network and NYC Votes on the campaign.
Participating theaters include smaller chains like Bow Tie Cinemas, Marcus Theatres and Movie Taverns, plus a number of independent theaters in states including Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio.
Birth of a Nation stars Nate Parker, Gabrielle Union, Colman Domingo and others released a short video that will air ahead of screenings of the film on Tuesday during its promotional run.
Birth of a Nation — acquired by Fox Searchlight for a record $17.5 million at Sundance in February — centers on the bloody and ultimately unsuccessful 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner in the antebellum South.
The film became the early favorite to win Best Picture at next year’s Academy Awards before the film became a lightning rod of controversy with the re-emergence of a 17-year-old rape case against its writer, director and star, Nate Parker.
Parker was ultimately acquitted of all charges in the 1999 case, but its re-emergence so close to the film’s release date led to some cancelled screenings and uncomfortable questions from entertainment reporters at film festivals.
Fox Searchlight was forced to alter the film’s promotional campaign, which included limiting Parker’s exposure to the media.
Some of this year’s partners for National Voter Registration Day include Google, Twitter, Univision, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and MTV, the latter of which will re-fashion its popular early-2000s TV show Total Request Live into “Total Registration Live” for the day.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum