Tuesday October 3, 2023

Forthcoming Negro Leagues Film to Get AMC Theaters Showcase

  • Business and distribution plan for Questlove-produced film departs from many other sports documentaries
  • "The League" features wealth of previously unearthed archival footage
Magnolia Pictures
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A forthcoming film chronicling the history of baseball’s Negro Leagues will be showcased next month in more than 100 AMC movie theaters, representing the core of a business and distribution plan departing significantly from many other sports documentaries.

The League – directed by Sam Pollard and executive produced by famed musician and filmmaker Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson – will make a more traditional widespread debut on July 14 and be released on various major digital platforms for rental and purchase. But that will be preceded by a theatre showing in more than 50 markets on July 9, 10, and 12.

Following a coveted spot this month at the Tribeca Film Festival, the cinema screenings represent a high-profile push behind the film compared to a more customary release for many sports documentaries – even the widely lauded The Last Dance – on linear television or a streaming channel. 

“This is going to be a very special way to bring this project to people,” said Neal Block, head of distribution and marketing for Magnolia Pictures, which is distributing The League. “There’s a lot more to the story of the Negro Leagues than most people know.” 

To that end, the film looks to delve far deeper into the history of Negro Leagues, which beyond stars such as Jackie Robinson and Josh Gibson, is largely unknown to even many ardent baseball fans. In particular, a key portion of The League explores the often-ignored Negro Leagues seasons after Robinson broke MLB’s color line in 1947, as well as the sport’s deep intersection with Black business and society.

Pollard accessed a trove of previously unearthed archival footage for The League.

“This project really brings home the point that this wasn’t just the minor leagues,” said Pollard, who in 2021 produced a documentary film on late tennis icon Arthur Ashe. “It was a formidable league with phenomenal players. We think this is going to open people’s eyes.”

For Questlove, The League follows on his Oscar-winning Summer Of Soul, which won last year for Best Documentary Feature.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeff Lurie are also executive producers of the film. Lurie previously collaborated with Questlove on Summer Of Soul.

It Ain’t Over, a new documentary about late Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, also is being shown in theaters.

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