MGM Pushes Jennifer Hudson's Aretha Franklin Biopic 'Respect' For Awards Season Christmas Release

Finally, a piece of release date news that's not a depressing coronavirus-related delay. MGM is pushing the release date of the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, which stars Jennifer Hudson as the powerful-voiced singer, for Christmas Day, with the intention of propping it up as an awards season contender. The film was originally set to arrive in October.

Deadline reports that the "mind-blowing" dailies of Jennifer Hudson's performance as Aretha Franklin in the upcoming biopic Respect have inspired MGM to move the film off its October 9 release date for a limited Christmas Day premiere. An expansion will follow on January 8, 2021, followed by a wide release on January 15, which is Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

A Christmas release makes for prime awards season fare, with films like 1917 and Little Women garnering plenty of buzz during the holidays last year. While the fall is generally where awards season starts, crowd-pleasing films with awards potential are generally given the coveted holiday spot, like 2016's Hidden Figures. It's possible that MGM sees a prestigious crowdpleaser on their hands with Respect, with Hudson likely to earn another Oscar nod with her performance. Already the film has built buzz with a sparse teaser that showed only Hudson in a classic Aretha dress, belting out the chorus of her most famous song, "Respect."

Respect, which is directed by Liesl Tommy and also stars Forest Whitaker as C.L. Franklin, Marlon Wayans as Ted White, Mary J. Blige as Dinah Washington, and Tituss Burgess as Rev. Dr. James Cleveland, is the only exclusive release on December 25 next to 20th Century Studios' limited opening of The Duel (which may move anyway since production has been halted due to the coronavirus pandemic). MGM has been ahead of many studios with its shuffling of its release schedule, announcing a November release of the highly anticipated Bond flick No Time to Die early on during the coronavirus outbreak, while many major releases have been postponed indefinitely.