Of the nine films that were nominated for the best picture Oscars this year — Arrival, La La Land, Hacksaw Ridge, Fences, Lion, Hell or High Water, Manchester by the Sea, Hidden Figures and Moonlight — the one that has made the least amount of money at the domestic box office is the winner: Moonlight. Before the awards, it had logged in about $22 million — nowhere near the frontrunner Hidden Figures (with $152 million), or La La Land ($130 mil) or even Arrival ($100 mil). It shared the same range as Hell or High Water ($27 mil), Manchester ($46 mil) and Lion ($42 mil).
But those facts don’t tell the full story. Hacksaw Ridge, which took in nearly three times as much as Moonlight ($66 million), also cost about $40 million to make — when you figure in marketing and distribution expenses, it probably hasn’t broken even yet. And while Hidden Figures was a bargain at only $25 mil to make, earning six times its production cost, even it doesn’t compare to Moonlight. That film cost only $1.5 million to make, so its gross is already 15 times its cost.
Profitability isn’t the only story, though. You want eyeballs on the screen as well. And so, the Ar-House-Queer-Black-Indie-Film That Could is expanding tomorrow to 1,500 screens. That’s an amazing roll-out, and shows a lot of hope that audiences will turn out for a movie because of the acclaim and the accessibility… even if the subject matter is on the edge.
Here’s to more people seeing the best film of the year.