7 Reasons Why ‘Hidden Figures’ Launched Into Orbit at Box Office

Fact-based film earns $22.8 million in its first weekend in wide release, dethroning “Rogue One”

“Hidden Figures” had a strong weekend at the box office in its first wide weekend — so strong, in fact, that it dethroned the mighty “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” as box office champion.

The biographical film, starring Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae as three female NASA mathematicians who helped advance the U.S. space program, expanded from 25 locations to 2,471 this weekend. “Hidden Figures” earned a stellar $22.8 million, finishing just ahead of “Rogue One” by roughly $1 million.

The strong cast, the subject matter and the film’s marketing campaign are just a few reasons why the drama had a successful opening weekend.

“A terrific, inspiring story that provides a great escape in the movie theater while also educating audiences about these amazing women,” comScore senior analyst Paul Dergarabedian told TheWrap.

The film holds a CinemaScore of A+ and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93 percent.

See 7 reasons why the female had a strong launch below.

1. Strong Female-Oriented Film for Beginning of Year

The new year began on a positive note with this film, a true story about three female NASA mathematicians that defied society’s rules to accomplish things that hadn’t been done before.

Also, it’s a movie for women: According to opening-weekend surveys, 64 percent of moviegoers seeing the film were women — 43 percent of attendees were Caucasian, while 37 percent were African-American.

Moreover, Exhibitor Relations senior analyst Jeff Bock added that “‘Hidden Figures” is like a missing chapter from a history book… audiences love when that happens.” So the movie educated audiences on something they might’ve overlooked.

2. Limited Release

The film got a lot of buzz in its limited release but steered clear of “Rogue One”  while it did so. So while “Rogue One” was staying strong at the box office, “Hidden Figures” made a sure and steady climb, enough to make it a neck-and-neck race when the Fox drama finally expanded wide this weekend.

3. Great Marketing Campaign

The marketing team of the movie really killed it with this one. The trailers highlighted the hilarious one-liners by the cast while illuminating the struggles of African-American females in the 1960s. The campaign didn’t only work to tell people about a part of history they might’ve missed, but also wanted to emphasize civil rights in that era.

Campaign highlights included taking the film to major festivals such as Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, and a NASA partnership where the film was screened at different events including one with Katherine Johnson, the former NASA mathematician played by Taraji P. Henson in the film. The cast, which included Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae and Kevin Costner, also appeared on various magazine covers and broadcast and talk shows such as “Ellen,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and the “Today” show.

Also, Pharrell Williams wrote music for the movie, which were featured in the various trailers and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

4. “Math Is Cool”

According to Dergarabedian, “Math is cool.”

“Films like ‘Gravity,’ ‘Interstellar’ and in particular ‘The Martian’ proved that the brain is mightier than the sword and that mathematicians and scientists can be the heroes!” he told TheWrap.

Indeed, the movie is full of mathematical equations that are tackled by Henson’s character, illuminating the power of the human mind. It is spectacular to watch Katherine’s brain work as she figures out the precise coordinates of John Glenn’s reentry point with math that was deemed “ancient” by NASA.

5. Stellar Reviews with Awards Buzz

While in limited release, the film had garnered awards buzz. The film was nominated for two awards at Sunday’s Golden Globes — Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Spencer and Best Original Score. The film is also nominated for Screen Actors Guild Awards in the categories Outstanding Performance by a Cast and Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor (Spencer again).

Currently, the film holds a “fresh” rating of 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with 124 positive reviews and only 10 rotten.

6. Diversity Is Alive

A film by a predominantly African-American cast also holds a special appeal to many moviegoers at this time. “With the cabinet change at the White House looking very ‘white,’ [‘Hidden Figures’ is] another reminder that diversity is alive and well,” Bock said.

“It’s the right film at the right time,” he added. “Inspirational stories with a positive message are much-needed, especially around New Year’s when resolutions are still crystal clear and hope is high.”

7. Strong Cast

Henson, Spencer and Monae have been praised for their stellar acting performances of the three outstanding women in history.

However, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons and Kirsten Dunst offer strong supporting roles, as well.