Exhibitors Reveal Big Audiences for ‘Hidden Figures’ through Community Initiatives

By Rob Rinderman

By any measure of success, Fox’s initially unheralded Christmas Day 2016 limited release of Hidden Figures has exceeded even the highest of expectations.

Robust box office receipts are already well in excess of $185 million domestically, the film has an enviable 90%+ “certified fresh” Rotten Tomatoes ranking, and it has achieved several noteworthy awards season victories and garnered numerous prestigious nominations.

Two of the nation’s leading theatrical exhibitors—AMC and Marcus—independently launched promotions to help spread the positive messaging behind the movie in celebration of February’s Black History Month.

In Marcus’s case, the top-four exhibitor teamed with both the public school system and regional chapter of the Boys & Girls club in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, their corporate-headquarters city.

Marcus Theatres Ties In with STEM Education Curriculum 

The Marcus Theatres promotion took place during the first half of February, and over that fortnight more than 10,000 sixth and seventh graders from the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system enjoyed Hidden Figures at one of the cinema chain’s local theaters. Marcus provided in-kind support for the educational initiative, including reduced-price admissions.

The company had previously spearheaded something similar for students, but on a smaller scale, with Selma, which chronicled a three-month period in the mid-1960s. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King led a campaign to secure equal voting rights for African Americans and an epic Alabama march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This was a significant milestone of the civil rights movement.

This year’s tie-in was designed to help promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies to students in middle school, a critical stage in their learning and development. The award-winning film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae and documents the inspiring story of three unsung African American NASA mathematicians who together made material positive contributions to the 1960s U.S. space race, including helping send astronaut John Glenn into orbit.

MPS provides strong STEM offerings across its district and viewed Hidden Figures as a means to bring STEM careers to life for young people. “We want students to see that STEM careers are real options regardless of gender or race,” said school superintendent Darienne Driver.

According to Denise Callaway, director of communications and outreach for

Milwaukee Public Schools, “This was a tremendous community-wide effort in support of our young people. This was about more than seeing a movie; this was an opportunity for young people to see how incredible opportunity presents itself when you are prepared. It is an untold but incredibly important part of America’s history that is finally being told and we are grateful for our partners, including Marcus Theaters, for their support.”

The Hidden Figures partnership also involved several other organizations including Beta Alpha Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Inc. and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee (BGCGM).

“When Hidden Figures was released, local leaders recognized the motivational power of the movie and worked with Marcus Theatres to send as many kids as we could to see it,” said Vincent Lyles, president and CEO of BGCGM. “Our mission at the Clubs is to inspire and empower young people to realize their full potential, and we hope that’s exactly what seeing this movie did for our kids; the women in the movie are real-life heroes, and we want our Club members to reach for the stars just like they did,” he added.

AMC and Fox Helping Break Barriers

AMC Theatres, the largest theatrical exhibitor in the world—with more than 10,000 screens globally—teamed up with 21st Century Fox (21CF) to provide free Hidden Figures movie screenings in 14 cities across the country during Black History Month.

On the morning of February 18, AMC locations in the following cities showed free screenings of the movie: Atlanta; Baltimore; New York; Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago; Dallas; Detroit; Los Angeles; New Orleans; Philadelphia; Oakland, California; St. Louis; Miami; and Washington, D.C.

AMC also launched an initiative encouraging various schools and community groups around the U.S. to apply for hosting additional special screenings to be held in their respective towns in March 2017, in conjunction with the nationwide celebration of Women’s History Month.

“We at 21CF were inspired by the grassroots movement to bring this film to audiences that wouldn’t otherwise be able to see it—audiences that might include future innovators and barrier breakers—and we wanted to support and extend that movement,” said Liba Rubenstein, 21st Century Fox’s senior vice president of social impact.

Fox also recently completed a contest entitled “The Search for Hidden Figures.” Over $200,000 in scholarships and awards were distributed in an effort to help uncover the next generation of STEM scholars.

According to Elizabeth Frank, EVP and chief content and programming officer at AMC, “The storytelling and message that Hidden Figures carries is endearing and inspiring, and based on the remarkable community support this movie has received, we have witnessed firsthand the powerful impact it is having on audiences.”

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