LOS ANGELES • Will Oscar take Moonlight to the bank?
When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named Moonlight as Best Picture on Sunday, the organisation made cultural history and not just for the bonkers way the victory was announced. For the first time, Hollywood backed a gay-themed film - one with an all-black cast - as its finest cinematic work.
Now the pressure is on A24, the relatively new studio behind Moonlight, to use that achievement to fill theatre seats.
The studio said on Tuesday it had booked Moonlight into at least 1,500 cinemas in the United States for this weekend, for the film's widest release so far.
While the film has been chugging along in theatres for 20 weeks now, it has so far played in at most 1,104 locations, a relatively small footprint. By comparison, La La Land played in 3,236 theatres at its widest point.
Despite its long run, Moonlight has taken in only US$22.1 million (S$31 million) at US theatres, held back by its subject matter, lack of star power and novelistic structure.
That is the second lowest on record for a Best Picture winner, according to comScore, which compiles ticketing data. The Hurt Locker, which took US$17 million or US19 million after adjusting for inflation, in 2009, is the lowest.
Moonlight cost US$1.5 million to make.
A24, founded in 2012, has gained a reputation as one of the savvier speciality film distributors in Hollywood. In the case of Moonlight, it first released the film in mid-October in only four theatres in New York and Los Angeles to begin building word-of-mouth.
Only after the Oscar nominations did the film manage to cross the 1,000-theatre mark. "A24 has done a fantastic job of nurturing and protecting this film," said Mr Daniel Loria, editorial director of Box Office Media. "To pay sustained attention to single-screen runs over the course of months, that takes real commitment."