By Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter
Empowered women and outer space dominated the North American box office over the weekend as Theodore Melfi’s biographical drama Hidden Figures orbited past Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to win the race with $22.8 million.
Sunday morning estimates had showed the two films all but tying for the No. 1 spot with roughly $22 million each but Hidden Figures, playing in 4,157 theaters, did more business than expected throughout the day. (Most rival studios showed Hidden Figures narrowly beating Rogue One all along. The stand-alone Star Wars story is hardly a slouch, having stayed atop the chart for three consecutive weekends.)
Nabbing a coveted A+ CinemaScore, Hidden Figures stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae as the real-life African-American mathematicians who helped NASA put the first men into space even while having to endure a segregated workplace. Their story, however, had been obscured for decades.
Hidden Figures played to a diverse audience; 43 percent of ticket buyers were Caucasian and 37 percent African-American. The pic overindexed in every part of the country save for the Rocky Mountain states. Like other movies over the weekend, Hidden Figures was impacted by a major winter storm in the Deep South and Northeast, but box-office observers don’t believe the damage was too great even with some theater closures on Friday and Saturday. Females made up 64 percent of Hidden Figures‘ audience, while 56 percent of all ticket buyers were 35 or older.
“It is a film for everyone regardless of age, gender or race, and effectively illustrates the power of the human mind and spirit,” said Fox domestic distribution president Chris Aronson. “In these challenging times, its life-affirming message comes along at a perfect time.”
From Fox 2000 and Chernin Entertainment, Hidden Figures first opened in select theaters on Christmas Day and has earned a total of $24.7 million to date against a $25 million budget. It opted to expand nationwide on the eve of Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony, where Spencer was nominated for best supporting actress.
Rogue One, the stand-alone Star Wars movie starring Felicity Jones, has now earned a massive $477.3 million domestically and is virtually guaranteed of crossing the $500 million mark. The pic easily won the foreign weekend race with $56.6 million, including a China bow of $31 million, for a offshore total of $437.1 million and global tally of $914.4 million.
Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s animated tentpole Sing wasn’t far behind Rogue One and Hidden Figures in North America, grossing $19.6 million from 3,955 theaters as it zoomed past the $200 million mark domestically. Overseas, the family hit took in $26.4 million from 61 territories for a global cume of $356.9 million, including $213.4 million in North America.
Screen Gems’ Underworld: Blood Wars, the fifth installment in the vampire hunter series, followed at No. 4 with an underwhelming launch of $13.1 million from 3,070 theaters. Directed by Anna Foerster and starring Kate Beckinsale and Theo James, the film earned a B+ CinemaScore.
Costing a net $35 million to make, Blood Wars is faring better overseas, where it has earned $45 million to date with numerous major markets still to open. “We were very thoughtful in the production costs of the film and the picture has been built for the world,” said Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer.
Rounding out the top five in North America was Lionsgate’s La La Land, which is up for seven Golden Globes, the most of any film this year. Upping its theater count from 750 to 1,515 theaters, the musical earned another $10 million for a strong domestic total of $51.7 million and early global cume of $86 million, including $19.5 million in South Korea.
Sony’s sci-fi space romance Passengers, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, fell to No. 8 in its third weekend, earning $8.8 million from 3,400 locations for a domestic total of $80.9 million and estimated worldwide tally of $185 million (it doesn’t open in China until next weekend).
Among prestige titles competing in the awards race, Denzel Washington’s Fences placed No. 9 with $4.7 million from 2,368 theaters for a domestic total of $40.7 million. Washington directed and stars in the Paramount stage adaptation and is nominated for a Golden Globe in the best actor in a motion picture — drama category. Co-star Viola Davis is nominated for best supporting actress.
A number of award hopefuls are still only playing in select markets, including CBS Films and Liongate’s Patriots Day, which scored the top location average of the weekend ($15,000, seven theaters). Golden Globe best picture nominee 20th Century Women ($14,282, 10 theaters), Toni Erdmann ($11,579, three theaters) and Paterson ($10,038, 10 theaters) followed, while Martin Scorsese’s Silence posted a pleasing location average of $9,412 as it expanded into a total of 51 theaters.
Hidden Figures stars Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae Instagrammed a photo of The Hollywood Reporter‘s tweet about Hidden Figures topping the box office. In Henson’s caption, the Empire star said the box-office success came in spite of people telling her that “Black women can’t open films domestically or internationally.”