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Hidden Figures passes La La Land as 2016's top-grossing Oscar contender

Updated

Hopper Stone

Hidden Figures‘ success story keeps getting sweeter.

As final weekend box office totals pour in, the Theodore Melfi-directed film, about three black mathematicians (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe) driving NASA’s position in the Space Race amid racial segregation in 1960s Virginia, has surpassed best picture frontrunner La La Land to become the top-grossing best picture Oscar nominee of the year.

Initially projected to have earned $10.1 million and $7.5 million, respectively, weekend actuals for Hidden Figures and La La Land amount to $10.2 million and $7.4 million. Thus far, Hidden Figures has made $119.5 million in North America, while La La Land‘s tally clocks in at $118.2 million. To date, this year’s best picture nominees have collectively grossed around $570 million from U.S. and Canadian theaters, with the aforementioned titles being the only two to have bagged more than $100 million.

On Jan. 24, Hidden Figures was nominated for three Oscars — including best picture, best supporting actress (Spencer), and best adapted screenplay for Melfi and Allison Schroeder’s co-written script, based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s nonfiction book of the same name. Five years after winning her first Academy Award for her work in The Help, Spencer became the first black actress in Oscar history to receive a follow-up nomination after winning a competitive trophy.

In recent years, the Academy has endured criticism for nominating films that hadn’t made a significant dent in the domestic box office, namely for its best picture class of 204 — only one of which grossed more than $100 million from U.S. and Canadian theaters.

Though La La Land is still ahead in the precursor awards (and overall Oscar nominations) count, the Hidden Figures ensemble’s Jan. 29 win in the Screen Actors Guild’s highest competitive category (and money-making staying power) could fuel its bid as a dark horse best picture contender when Oscar voters begin casting final ballots on Feb. 13.

Upon the film’s No. 1 bow at the box office in early January, its stars gushed about the achievement on social media.

“It took over 50 years to tell the story of these 3 brilliant African American female protagonists. Without the research of [Shatterly] these women would still be hidden,” Monáe said via Instagram. “This weekend we only had 2,471 theaters, while Rogue One had 4,157 locations. We had snow storms that caused east coast region theaters to close, but [we] still managed to win the race! Mary, Katherine, Dorothy and all the colored and human computers at NASA who took America space are HIDDEN NO MORE. WE WILL NOT BE ERASED.” 

Hidden Figures and La La Land are now playing nationwide. The 89th Oscars will broadcast Sunday, Feb. 26 on ABC at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT.