‘Hidden Figures’ to honor Black History Month with free screenings on Feb. 18

With a take of $131 million and counting, “Hidden Figures” is the highest-grossing film among the nine Best Picture nominees at this year’s Oscars. Theodore Melfis crowd pleaser tells the true story of three unsung heroes of the NASA space program: mathematicians Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), whose contributions were all the more impressive because they were black women working in the South during the Jim Crow era.

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To celebrate Black History month, Fox in partnership with AMC will be showing the film for free in 14 cities this Saturday (Feb. 18). In addition, the studio has invited schools and community groups to apply for additional special screenings.

In making the announcement, Liba Rubenstein, 21st Century Fox’s senior vice president of social impact, said, “As we celebrate Black History Month and look ahead to Women’s History Month in March, this story of empowerment and perseverance is more relevant than ever. We were inspired by the grassroots movement to bring this film to audiences that wouldn’t otherwise be able to see it.”

Added Elizabeth Frank of AMC, “We have witnessed first-hand the powerful impact it is having on audiences and we’re honored to partner with Fox to help further the reach of this message to moviegoers across the country.”

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The film merits an impressive 93% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes, the same score as Oscar frontrunner “La La Land.”  And audiences agreed with the critics, giving “Hidden Figures” a CinemaScore of A+. That top mark is a rarity for studio films, with only two other 2016 releases hitting that mark (the biopic “Queen of Katwe” and the inspirational “Miracles From Heaven”). And “Hidden Figures” earned this top grade across all demographics, which bodes well for the Oscars.

Remember, Best Picture is decided by a preferential ballot. The winner is the consensus favorite, the film that everyone likes a lot. Several of this year’s other top contenders, such as “Arrival,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight,” have passionate support from a segment of Oscar voters but may not appeal to the rest of the academy.

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Originally, the studio had planned to “Hidden Figures” on the Martin Luther King, Jr. long weekend in January. However, after a sensational reaction to a screening of a few scenes at TIFF in September, it realized it had a major awards contender and bumped up the release date. That gamble paid off with a SAG Ensemble win (“La La Land” was snubbed in that race) and nominations from five of the other 11 guilds as well as that boffo box office.

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