“Selma” will become the latest in a line of Oscar contenders such as last year’s “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and 2012’s “Lincoln” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” to be shown in the White House.
Cast and crew from the movie “Selma” are expected to attend.
On Thursday, “Selma” was nominated for picture and for song, but the failure of the movie to draw nominations in other categories generated strong reactions on Twitter, where critics blasted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for an all-white list of acting nominees.
A White House screening can add a certain prestige value to a movie, perhaps even elevating its attention in the eyes of Academy voters, but the decision rests with Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on whether to publicly reveal their film choices.
They have tended to do so when the projects have strong social or historical themes, as will be the case with the “Selma” screening just before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday. In cases with movies like “Lincoln,” the White House has released photos from the event, and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was screened to high school students at the White House, followed by a film workshop featuring cast and crew.
Many of the Obamas’ movie choices, however, are not disclosed, as the 40-seat White House Family Theater is considered part of their private family quarters.
Presidential movie choices through the years have been tinged with controversy and curiosity. The first movie screened at the White House was in 1915, when Woodrow Wilson hosted a showing of “Birth of a Nation.” Richard Nixon was so obsessed with “Patton” that he had to deny years later that the movie affected his decisionmaking. An X-rated movie has even screened there — “Midnight Cowboy,” screened by Jimmy Carter.
The Obamas also have screened “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Julie & Julia” and “He’s Just Not That Into You.”