The 89th Academy Awards generated a lot of buzz for all the strangest reasons. With an epic error made by the accountant who handed an envelope to Warren Beatty, the wrong film was announced as the winner. When the truth was eventually revealed, the world was agog. Although producers from the musical La La Land had already made acceptance speeches, it turned out that the actual winner of the award was the team from Moonlight.
After the stage manager stepped out from behind the curtains, it quickly became obvious that something had gone horribly wrong. The whole situation was so shocking that even host Jimmy Kimmel said that his brain couldn’t process what was happening. Considering the awkwardness of the situation, the producers of La La Land were extremely gracious about handing over their golden statuettes to the representatives of Moonlight.
Even director Barry Jenkins, who is usually very cool, calm and composed, seemed visibly dazed as he walked up to the stage to accept the award. Not only were the circumstances wild, but he must have realized that he had just made history. As the first film with an all-black cast to win for Best Picture, the incredible achievement of Moonlight cannot be overstated.
Partly based on the real-life experiences of Jenkins and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, this story focuses in on the life of a young boy growing up in the rough part of Miami. Taken under the wing of a powerful drug dealer named Juan, he must also contend with his mother’s horrifying crack cocaine habit. Along the way, he also makes discoveries that make him feel different from the other boys at school. Blending elements of an urban coming-of-age story with a romance of sorts, this film generated major buzz from the moment it first started to make the festival circuit rounds. In the years to come, one would hope that moviegoers will remember the historic symbolism of the win—and not a silly envelope mistake made by an accountant.
After a headline-making flub at the Oscars for the Best Picture category involving “La La Land,” the homage to Hollywood’s courtship with musicals, “Moonlight” emerged triumphant. The film by Barry Jenkins, is a double threat of Oscar notables, being the first Best Picture winner to focus on LGBT issues and to feature a cast completely consisting of African-American actors, most of whom were unknowns. Moonlight is Jenkins’ most recent director credit after an eight year absence.
Despite all of these accolades, Moonlight’s run up to the awards was far less sterling. Having earned only $22 million, Moonlight qualifies as the bottom earner among this year’s nine nominees and the next-to-least-grossing Best Picture winner in film history; The Hurt Locker owns the claim to that title. Beyond earning the Best Picture award, Moonlight also earned Mahershala Ali the Best Supporting Actor category and Best Adapted Screenplay. Now that Moonlight has had such a stellar run, it will be re-released to an excess of 1,500 theaters, nearly tripling the screen count of when it was last screened. In addition to getting a theatrical re-release on March 3rd, Moonlight is also available on home media formats.
While it is a common tactic for Best Picture winners to get theatrical re-releases, the size of Moonlight’s re-release is notable; previous winners “Birdman” and “Spotlight” only expanded to 1,200 screens. While Moonlight was released only half a year ago and rode a massive wave of accolades and mentions of Awards-worthiness, it never found a welcoming venue in the box office.