Box-Office Experts Once Again Underestimated The Drawing Power Of A Majority Black Cast

In Sunday’s box-office report, the race for the top spot for the weekend was too close to call based on unofficial numbers. Studio estimates went back and forth all day between Rogue One and Hidden Figures, which expanded into 2400 theaters over the weekend and became a surprising challenger to the Star Wars stand-alone film. By midday yesterday, the average of studio estimates had Hidden Figures on top by roughly $60,000 for the entire weekend. However, official box-office estimates still had Rogue One leading by nearly $200K.

The official weekend numbers are now in, and Hidden Figures ultimately performed better on Sunday than the studios had estimated. In fact, the film is coming in with $22.8 million compared to the final numbers for Rogue One, $21.9 million. Hidden Figures managed to outgross Rogue One despite being in 1700 fewer theaters thanks to tremendous word of mouth (the film received a rare A+ from Cinemascore) and female moviegoers, who accounted for 64 percent of the audience, according to Variety.

Expectations for Hidden Figures were in the $16-$18 million range, but the movie has been trouncing its other limited-release competition since Christmas, averaging more per screen than Martin Scorsese’s Silence, Mark Wahlberg’s The Patriot and Ben Affleck’s Live by Night. It appears to be another instance where box-office prognosticators underestimated the drawing power of films with a majority black cast. This is not unusual for box-office predictions. Straight Outta Compton, The Perfect Guy, The Best Man Holiday, Ride Along, and Think Like a Man, among others, all outperformed box-office expectations, much to the surprise of box-office prediction experts.

Hidden Figures, which recounts the experiences of three black, female NASA employees who helped to get astronaut John Glenn into orbit in 1962, also has the A+ Cinemscore in common with several other films with majority black casts, Remember the Titans, 42, and The Help. Those films also won their respective opening weekends and the latter two, at least, ultimately outgrossed original expectations.

One person who was not surprised was one of the film’s stars, Taraji P. Henson, who took to Instagram to celebrate the film’s opening.

“I have been told my entire career ‘Black women can’t open films domestically or internationally.’ Well anything is possible. Most importantly this proves that PEOPLE LIKE GOOD MATERIAL. HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GENDER OR RACE. “

Janelle Monae likewise posted to Instagram, where she also poked fun at the title given to the movie by Jenna Bush during the Golden Globes, Hidden Fences.

THE FORCE WAS WITH US. It took over 50 years to tell the story of these 3 brilliant African American female protagonists. Without the research of @margotleeshetterly these women would still be hidden. 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 #HIDDENFENCES still managed to win the race!

In other news, it’s worth noting that, despite the huge success of Rogue One in both America and the rest of the world, the film opened in China — the second largest market in the world — to a “tepid” $31 million.

Sources: Variety, EW