12 Years a Slave is the best movie of the year. It just is. And it's hitting its key audiences ahead of its full nationwide release on Friday (November 1, 2013) - notably highbrow arty movie fans and mainstream African Americans. 

12 Years a Slave Michael FassbenderMichael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave

According to the Los Angeles Times, Dallas and Detroit were added last weekend by Fox Searchlight as Steve McQueen's film moves towards an expanded release. Though it's only small pockets of screenings, the relatively big numbers hint at something special for the slave-drama once it opens across the U.S.  It took $34,200 from the Angelika in Dallas in just three days and $33,900 at the AMC Star Southfield 20 in Dallas.

"We're hitting on all cylinders," said Steve Gilula, a co-president of Fox Searchlight. "We're not seeing any resistance."

In its second weekend in New York and Los Angeles, 12 Years a Slave continued to do solid business. At the Regal Union Square Stadium 14, the film took $57,000 to top the nation's number-one movie Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. "It's very clear the film is reaching multiple audiences," Gilula said.

Chiwetel Ejiofor 12 Years a SlaveChiwetel Ejiofor Is The Favorite To Win Best Actor at the Oscars

Critics are unanimous in their praise for McQueen's movie, about Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the New York State citizen who was kidnapped and made to work on a plantation in New Orleans in the 1800s. 

"With this powerful, almost classical drama, British director Steve McQueen has made the seminal film about slavery that Hollywood feared to tackle," wrote Kate Muir of The Times.

"A brutally powerful and emotionally devastating film that takes great pains to rip any lingering vestiges of romanticism from America's most shameful institution," said Lou Lumenick of the New York Post.

"When a director who never ever blinks takes on a horrific subject, a nightmare in broad daylight is the inevitable result. Welcome, if that is the right word, to the world of "12 Years a Slave," said Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times.

"The harrowing 12 Years a Slave is a mesmerizing period drama for the ages," said Claudia Puig of USA Today.

All that has forced the bookmakers to offer ridiculously short odds on 12 Years a Slave winning Best Picture at the Oscars in March 2014. The competition is clear: Gravity, American Hustle and Captain Phillips, though the consensus appears to be that Steve McQueen's slave drama is a cut above the rest. 

12 Years a Slave hits theaters in the U.S. on Friday (November 1, 2013).

Watch the 12 Years a Slave trailer: