Hidden Figures has become the breakout movie at the box office so far in 2017, and while some are shocked by this development, there are many factors that can be attributed to its success.
In an industry dominated by superheroes in colorful costumes and kid-friendly animated productions, Hidden Figures has emerged as a major force. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as three real-life women who contributed greatly to NASA's initial space missions (Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson) and all three performances have been acclaimed by critics and audiences alike.
So far, Hidden Figures is estimated to have grossed over $61 million in its first two weeks of wide release alone and has been no. 1 at the box office both weeks. So how did the film reach such heights? Here are the five biggest reasons:
1. An incredible story, that very few people knew about
Hidden Figures, in its purest form, is an underdog story that ends in triumph. The film tells the story of three African American women who are underestimated because of their race and their gender, at a time of great social upheaval in America - the 1960s. But as all three prove themselves, they become some of the most valued people to ever work at NASA. It's also a story that few people are aware of, making this a valuable educational tool.
2. Buzz and awards success
Now is the time for Oscar-friendly movies to shine. December and January are the busiest months for quality movies in the Oscar race, particularly adult-themed dramas. Hidden Figures has already been nominated at the Critics' Choice, Golden Globe and SAG Awards and it's receiving a lot of Oscar buzz as well, for the movie and for Spencer and Monáe in Supporting Actress.
3. That cast
Hidden Figures features an all-star cast even beyond the three women at the center. Henson is one of the most well-regarded actresses on television for her role as Cookie Lyon in Fox's Empire; Spencer is an Oscar winner for The Help and has a likable, warm presence; Monáe is a Grammy-nominated musical sensation with a lot of respect in the music world. The cast also includes Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons, who have all had major successes of their own.
4. Taps into a huge, often-unacknowledged market
It is significant that a movie starring three black women has risen to the top of the box office. But it's also significant that so few prestige dramas like Hidden Figures starring black women are even made. But it seems that every demographic is coming out to see the film, with Women and Hollywood's Melissa Silverstein telling The Washington Post: "This illuminates the need for diversity and inclusive storytelling all year long. There is a market for these [films], and if the movie's good, it will sell."
5. It's inspirational, at a time when many are looking for inspiration
Hidden Figures is an inspirational movie, especially for young girls. To see women, let alone African American women, doing extraordinary things at the movies is still a rarity, and this film provides that. Yet, it also provides inspiration and hope for millions of Americans who feel discouraged by the presidential election. It gives such a hopeful message to anyone watching, regardless of skin color, gender, age or sexual orientation, that greatness is still possible.
Hidden Figures is currently in theaters throughout the United States.