Free 'Selma' Screenings Offered to Students Across US; MLK March 'An Important Piece of American History,' Says Contributor

(Photo: Facebook/SelmaMovie)The film "Selma" hits theaters across the U.S. on Christmas Day, Thursday, December 25, 2014.

An initiative offering free screenings of the Golden Globe-nominated film "Selma" to students in New York City has extended to more cities across the U.S.

Last week, Paramount Pictures launched a private campaign with 27 prominent African-American business leaders that permitted 27,000 seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade students in New York to watch the civil rights drama for free.

The overwhelming response led to the expansion of the campaign, which was recently extended to an additional eight cities and more could be added later this week. Paramount confirmed that 75,000 free tickets are being offered to students in cities including Boston, Nashville, Philadelphia and San Francisco among others.

"Selma," directed by Ava DuVernay, covers the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights marches led by a small group including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The film presents educational themes that are timely and relevant, particularly in the wake of civil unrest around the nation.

"Martin Luther King, Jr.'s momentous journey in Alabama is an important piece of American history," said Bill Lewis, Co-Chairman of Investment Banking, Lazard and one of the campaign's contributors, in a statement. "Our goal was to educate as many children as we could about the historical importance and contemporary relevance of the march in Selma."

DuVernay described the film, which scored four Golden Globe nominations, as a "cultural movement." Prior to the creation of "Selma," there had never been a major film based on Dr. King's involvement in the marches.

"With all the unrest and all of the toxicity around race relations that's going on around America right now, maybe it was on hold for a reason," she said. "We really feel like our piece is meeting this cultural movement in a really dynamic way. It's nothing we could have planned, but I think the film and the times that we're in are speaking to each other."

The three Selma-to-Montgomery marches took place between March 7 and March 25 in 1965 and they were organized by local African Americans to advocate equal voting rights. Their attempts to walk the 54-mile highway from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery proved successful as the movement led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting.

The campaign began yesterday (Jan. 12) and is expected to run through Jan. 19, which is Martin Luther King Day. Students interested in taking advantage of the offer are advised to take photo ID or a report card to participating locations.

Last month the film, which stars "The Butler" actor David Oyelowo as MLK and Academy Award-nominee Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson, was named the top film of 2014 by the African-American Film Critics Association.

On Sunday it took home a Golden Globe for Best Original Song for Common and John Legend's "Glory."

"Selma" was co-produced by Hollywood actor Brad Pitt and media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who also stars as Annie Lee Cooper.