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LOS ANGELES – “12 Years a Slave” and “ Lee Daniels’ The Butler” earned a total of seven nominations Wednesday for the 20th Screen Actors Guild Awards, solidifying their status as front-runners as the road to Oscar gold begins in earnest.

The films are hallmarks of an extraordinary year for black cinema, rich with critical acclaim and box-office success, and Wednesday’s nominations could signal more accolades to come.

The SAG Awards honored “12 Years a Slave” with four nominations – more than any other film. The unflinching portrayal of slavery in early America earned a nod for best ensemble cast – the SAG Awards equivalent of best picture. There were nominations as well for male actor in a leading role for Chiwetel Ejiofor and supporting nods for Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o.

“The Butler” earned three SAG nominations, including best ensemble cast, male actor in a leading role for Forest Whitaker and a supporting nod for Oprah Winfrey.

Rounding out the ensemble cast nominees were “August: Osage County,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “American Hustle,” which also picked up a supporting nomination for Jennifer Lawrence.

Vying with Ejiofor and Whitaker for male actor in a leading role honors were Bruce Dern for “Nebraska,” Tom Hanks for “Captain Phillips” and Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Contending in the female actor in a leading role category are Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine,” Sandra Bullock for “Gravity,” Judi Dench for “Philomena,” Meryl Streep for “August: Osage County” and Emma Thompson for “Saving Mr. Banks.”