Raised in segregated rural Texas, Ailey became a pioneering choreographer, dancer and director who helped popularize modern dance. He died in 1989 at the age of 58 from AIDS-related complications. In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded him a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The film will be partly based on Jennifer Dunning's biography "Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance." Searchlight last year began developing the film after securing the rights to Ailey's choreography from the Ailey Organization.