Variety has confirmed that Hidden Figures will have a limited, Oscar-qualifying release on Christmas Day before going wide on January 6.
Distributor Fox originally had the film slated for release on January 13th, but bumped up the release date so the film could be considered for awards attention this year.
The film is based on the incredible true story of mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and her two colleagues Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), who single-handedly allowed the NASA to catch up in the Space Race. It is because of their hard work that John Glenn (played by Scream Queen‘s Glen Powell in the film) became the first American astronaut to make a complete orbit around the Earth.
Henson, who was previously nominated for an Oscar in Best Supporting Actress for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, is the focal point of the film and will be competing in a stacked Best Actress race. There’s La La Land‘s Emma Stone, Jackie‘s Natalie Portman, Fence‘s Viola Davis, 20th Century Woman‘s Annette Bening and Loving‘s Ruth Negga. Henson has more recently been nominated for two consecutive Emmy awards for her performance in the explosively popular Empire; she’s an actress who, like Davis, has worked steadily for years and has always been great in whatever she’s been in. This would be her first lead nomination, and after two years of #OscarSoWhite, it would be a landmark to have two, or even three, black women up for Lead Actress. The last black actress to be nominated in this category was Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Both Spencer and Monaé will have an easier time earning nominations for their performances, which will probably be campaigned in the much less competitive Supporting Actress category. Spencer was previously nominated, and won, in this category for The Help. Monáe on the other hand, has a critically acclaimed supporting performance in Moonlight, that will bolster her chances at earning her first nomination. It’s unsure which performance the Academy will prefer more, but I’m going to take a guess and say that Hidden Figures would be it; they love “Based on a True Story” films, and Fox is a much bigger distributor than A24 (who is handling Moonlight) is.
Word on the film is still quiet; there was a screening for some footage last month, but other than that no one has seen it (and if they have, there’s likely an embargo until we get closer to December). Still, the reception to the footage seen was extremely positive, and it reportedly hits all of the marks necessary for a film to have a shot at awards consideration. Oscar qualifying releases have worked for multiple films in the past, most recently The Revenant and The Hateful Eight. Its potential to be a crowd pleasing, box office hit only makes its chances that much greater, so definitely watch out for this one.