It was a race that ironically resembled the space race this weekend at theatres across the country as the two top movies of the box office had a narrow finish. In the end, Hidden Figures stepped boldly out into the spotlight and claimed the best number at the box office.

Hidden Figures expanded into 2,471 theatres this weekend and ended its first weekend nationwide with $22.8 million dollars, dethroning the galactic empire that is Star Wars by a mere $700,000. While this wasn’t exactly the height of success that either Rogue One or Hidden Figures were hoping for, unfavorable weather across the eastern seaboard and various southern states ended up leading to an overall poor performance for the first official weekend of the 2017 Box Office, the lowest performing first weekend of the new year since 2011. But despite that, Hidden Figures was still able to crunch the numbers and crank out a win. So far its domestic cume after two weeks in limited released and now this nationwide weekend, has already surpassed its budget of $25 million.

We asked our friend Breannah Alexander who is a co-founder of Women reVamped, a Grand Rapids based non-profit and  think tank that advocates for female socioeconomic mobility through education and mentorship, to share her thoughts on this powerful film on the subject of race and gender equality. Here's what Breannah had to say;

The amazing thing about Hidden Figures is that it's a story that a lot of people are unfamiliar with, including a lot of people from NASA. Almost no ones knows that the minds that were behind the scenes and ultimately responsible for helping get us into space were black women in a very segregated south. So the beauty behind Hidden Figures as a film, when talking about engaging narratives such as race in what is truly a new civil rights decade that we are steaming rolling into at the moment, is that it helps us to understand that our shared goals are often shaded by our individual experiences. Often leading to collective outcomes more or less being missed, or at best just delayed because we are only thinking about the rules and the perceptions that we have about people in diffident spaces. Hidden Figures really elevated that narrative well.
The biggest piece that I think people seeing the movie will walk away with is that it's a film about black women, but over more it is a story about women who were affected by the gender dynamics of their time. They went home to husbands who were still "heads of the home" at the time. They went into a work place where women were still very much disregarded. But they also went into a work place where their blackness affected that experience even further. So as people process this film and what this story means and why it is important it is because remembering that there are layers to people's experiences, and there are layers to how we treat one another, and there are also layers to how our impact happens the workplace matters.
I think all in all people enjoy this movie because you have a large audience that has a newly rekindled interested in understanding history. They want to better grasp the reason as to why everything is happening in todays society the way it is. Hidden Figures is a good place to start because the film reminds us that it has always mattered whether or not you are a woman, and it has always mattered whether or not your are a person of color.

Well, despite a decent weekend for most of our top five, our lone newcomer of the weekend, Screen Gem’s Underworld: Blood Wars struggled to finish the weekend with $13.7 million leading to a fourth place finish for the franchise sequel. While that doesn’t mean it’s on its way straight to Hell given that is just $5 million shy of making back half its budget opening weekend, that does mean that this is the weakest opening in the vampire franchise yet. Weather again played a factor in this, but even had more people been able to get out to theatres I doubt it would have changed anything as the film had significant competition from Rogue One still, and a slew of Oscar films that audiences seem to be far more infatuated with.

Keeping perspective though, Underworld has been slaying it at the foreign Box Office as it has pulled in an international cume of $45+ million from over four dozen markets and territories. Additionally, out of all of those (50 to be exact) only two of those territories released this film this weekend. Most began releasing the film back in mid-December and the film has continued to perform well there. Given the upcoming extended holiday weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. day, and better weather conditions in the forecast for the states, all of the top five, including Underworld specifically, have a chance to have a stronger hold over next weekend’s Box Office.

The final film worth noting this weekend is Focus Features A Monster Calls which expanded nationwide this weekend into 1,523 theaters. This heartbreaking, loss of innocence film despite having wonderful and amazing reviews and ratings only finished the weekend with $2 million dollars, leading to an overall domestic cume of only $2.2 million. From where I stand I think this is all to do with the situation Monster Calls finds itself in and not the story itself. While having gone nationwide 1,500 hundred theatres is still on the lower end for theatre count. It was also adversely affected by weather, and there are no shortage of aggressively powerful awards contenders vying for the same audience. A Monster Calls is without question a quieter film in the manner in which it tells its story when compared to films like Fences or La La Land and yet its story is a powerful one that follows you home more so than say the likes of La La Land. Anyone who watches the trailer knows they are in for an emotional ride and perhaps audiences aren’t ready just yet for that, but if this film snags the Oscar nominations it so very much deserves I am hoping this film will see a resurgence in attention.

Looking ahead to next weekend we have continued expansions of various other award nominee hopefuls like Martin Scorsese’s Silence, Ben Affleck’s Live By Night, and Peter Berg’s Patriots Day.

Silence still looks like a profoundly moving and difficult story to watch and given that it’s Scorsese, I haven’t a question in my mind that it’ll break me and make me question what it means to have faith without ceasing. This particular film will be expanding into about 750 theatres this weekend so I’m not expecting an amazing finish but I’m sure it’ll be gaining a good amount of new and energetic buzz.

Live By Night has had a nearly nonexistent start to its life as the film which has been in limited release for the last 15 days has only pulled in $170,000 from four theatres. This new Affleck film which stars him in a film written and directed by him (flashbacks to Argo anyone?) is the story of Joe Coughlin who, despite his proper upbringing as the son of the Boston Police superintendent, turns to a life of crime and outlaw during the raging 1920’s prohibition days. The creators want to make us think things get interesting when Coughlin steals the mob boss’ money and girl, but really, this film feels like an utter waste of time. Sure, don’t get me wrong, I love period pieces and though this film looks like it’ll catch the essence of the era, that appears to be the only thing it’ll be catching as it stands on Rotten Tomatoes with a 33%.

Finally the last film to expand this weekend is Patriots Day starring Mark Walberg and is the story of the Boston Marathon bombing and all the events that quickly unraveled after that horrific incident. Despite initial estimates placing this film at a $15-20 million performance this coming weekend, I’m thinking it will perform just below those expectations. It has decently average ratings and while the critical feedback is mostly positive I have a hard time jumping on board with this film. It feels like it’s playing to an already sensationalized national identity and playing on the emotions of a very tragic and heartbreaking moment in our country’s recent past. I’m not ruling the film out immediately, but I will be honest that Berg has really got to convince me/say something worth remembering in this film or it’ll be an injustice to the event itself.

The weekend will also see the release of three newcomers, The Bye Bye Man, Sleepless and Monster Trucks.

The Bye Bye Man is a horror film about three college friends who stumble upon the unsettling origins of the Bye Bye Man and they quickly discover his possession powers and the unspeakable evil he drives his victims to do. It feels like this film is stuck between the mainstream and artsy subgenres of thriller horror films, and while it might do decently given that audiences have been looking for a horror film worth their time after the letdown that was Incarnate, I am very much unconvinced it’ll do all that well.

Sleepless looks even less interesting as it’s a gritty cop-crime drama and story of Vincent Downs who is an undercover Las Vegas police officer who ends up in the middle of the intense and dangerous cross-hairs of corrupt cops, internal affairs, and murderous gangsters after his son is kidnapped. At the risk of saying I feel like I have seen this film before, all I will say is this film will most likely have a seriously difficult uphill battle keeping its audience awake even though its structured very much like a summer blockbuster that has gotten slated for a cold and slow death in January.

But regardless of that, the film looking to finish the weekend as the first major flop of 2017 is Paramount Pictures Monster Trucks. The film was originally slated for a release in May of 2015, got pushed to a December 2015 release, and then after a couple more reschedules now finds itself opening as sloppy seconds to the post-holiday box office season. The studio has literally already marked-down the value of this film and are anticipating some major financial hits because of this. Plus, they completely misjudged what the heck they were making in the first place as they originally thought it was a story that would be a wide audience appealer but has ended up literally nothing more than a shorty, oddly CGed kids film that has nothing memorable about it.

But, even though there looks like there isn’t anything worth our time coming from the newcomers, all our awards contenders that are continuing their expansion, plus those that have already begun their nationwide journey, are films that are 100% worth your time and attention. And what the heck, if you’re looking for some easy movie watching that gives you some quick thrills and flash in the pan, you’re stocked up there too.

So this weekend, no matter your movie tastes, head out and catch a movie or two!

Again, a special thank you to our guest host, Breannah from Women reVamped. Make sure to check out Women reVamped on Facebook and Twitter!

-Matthew

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