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'Precious' is coming to Lexington — eventually

During the holiday break, folks, one right after another, asked whether I knew why Lexington was not one of the markets showing Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.

My answer was always, "I don't know."

At my dinner table on Thanksgiving, my sister asked, "Why isn't Precious showing in Lexington?"

"I don't know," I said.

In Wal-Mart on Friday and Saturday, the question arose and I replied, "I don't know."

Finally, when I returned to work this week, a reader on my voice mail asked, "Where is Precious?"

It was time to find out.

I called local theaters and regional film distributors, left e-mail and voice messages in Texas and Ohio, and talked to Fred Mills, manager of The Kentucky Theatre.

To the next person who asks when Precious will be shown in Lexington, I can now say, "Probably on Dec. 18."

I also know that its absence from Lexington screens is not a big conspiracy that somehow also snared Disney's The Princess and the Frog, featuring the studio's first black princess. That film opened only in New York and Los Angeles in conjunction with a special event and will be in wide release Dec. 11.

For Precious, however, we're going to have to wait a bit longer because we're not big enough.

According to one distributor, Larry Thomas Booking in Cincinnati, it's because of something called a platform release. A platform release means the film opens in a small number of theaters across the nation to get people talking. Then the number of screens grows gradually from there. After Precious opened Nov. 6, the next increase of theaters occurred Nov. 20, expanding to more than 600. That's when it opened in Louisville, but Lexington remained out of the loop.

Owner Larry Thomas wrote in an e-mail: "Precious is scheduled to expand on (Dec. 18), which should include Lexington theaters."

Brokeback Mountain used the technique in 2005. The idea is to see how well the film does with audiences, which is measured in money earned per theater.

Lionsgate released Precious to 18 theaters in larger cities on Nov. 6 and earned $1.8 million. That's an average of $100,000 a screen, which is the highest since Dreamgirls averaged $126,000 in three theaters in 2006.

So the demand for the film in Lexington is just what Lionsgate and the independent film's producers, who include Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, want. There is even talk of it being Oscar-worthy.

Precious is based on Push, poet Sapphire's first novel. Even in limited release, the movie has created buzz. The main character is Claireece Precious Jones, an obese 16-year-old girl who is pregnant with her second child by her father. Her mother, played in the film by comedienne Mo'Nique, verbally and physically abuses her, and she is still in middle school when she should be in the 11th grade.

When school administrators learn of the second pregnancy, Precious is sent to an alternative school, where she eventually learns to read and write.

Precious is played by Gabourey Sidibe. Other stars include Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz and Paula Patton. It is directed by Lee Daniels, who directed Monster's Ball.

Not everyone has loved the movie. Some say it perpetuates negative stereotypes of black people. Others say the theme overrides those negative images to expose what some young girls, the ones who least fit our image of beauty, endure while surviving in poverty.

And still others think it's high time we notice those girls who have become invisible in an attempt to hide from their pain.

Mills, at The Kentucky Theatre, said he'd love to have the film, but he thinks the distributor is waiting to widely release it closer to Christmas.

Thomas wrote that it is unlikely that The Kentucky would show the film before the larger theaters in Lexington.

"We have been getting the calls and people stopping by to ask" if the movie is coming to The Kentucky, Mills said. "If we were able to get it, we would really work that picture, trying to bring in all sections of people to the table."

He said he would find ways to discuss domestic abuse with black and white people, rich and poor. "We are kind of put out" that The Kentucky can't get it, he said.

It's coming, folks. We just have to be patient, and our city just has to grow.