Hidden Figures, the movie about three African-American women whose skills and intelligence sent astronauts to the moon, now has a new release date. The new dates have the movie opening in limited release on December 25 and wide release on January 6. This is an important change, it means Hidden Figures will be eligible for the 89th Academy Awards and won’t be left to languish in movie limbo.
January is traditionally where studios stick properties to die, properties where they don’t have high expectations. The lucrative Holiday season is over, the summer/spring blockbusters haven’t started releasing yet, it’s the lull between seasons. Movie goers traditionally have movie fatigue come January and the trend is repeated in September and early October after the summer season and before the Holiday/Awards season.
More importantly, January is the beginning of the calendar year and the beginning of the start of Oscar eligibility. Movies are eligible for Oscars if they are released within that calendar year, the 89th Academy Awards is for all of 2016. Unfortunately, releasing movies in the beginning of the year guarantees they will mostly be forgotten by the time awards season rolls around.
If studios release a great movie early in the year, they combat limbo by re-releasing the property sometime during November or December. Most of the time this is limited runs and only in major cities. They also tend to wage a heavy marketing campaign to keep the movie in the forefront. Unfortunately, this tends to be a rare occurrence and studios vastly prefer to release Oscar bait films at the end of the year. Which is known as screener or Oscar season by the industry for a reason.
The alternative to re-releasing a movie is to do the opposite, wide release the movie in January but do a limited release before the end of the year to make it Oscar eligible.
When Fox first announced the movie and release date in January it was clear they didn’t have high expectation for the film. However, buzz quickly surrounded the movie, lifting it up and Fox has had a change of heart. Honestly, I don’t know what they were thinking when they threw it in movie limbo. I don’t know how they can look a property with this cast, with this subject matter and think “meh”.
Oh, wait, I can and the reason is heartbreaking and infuriating.
Hopefully Hidden Figures does as well and will garner Oscar attention.
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