21st Century Fox, in partnership with AMC Theatres, launched an open screening contest to bring the inspirational story of the movie Hidden Figures to young people and students across the U.S.
The contest was designed to enable local nonprofits and schools, already sources of support and leadership in their communities, to use Hidden Figures as a means of inspiring young women, especially those of color, to pursue their passions for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
- Celebrating the historic contributions women of color have made to the STEM fields over the years
- Sharing the film's inspirational message with as many students and young people as possible
- Providing educational resources that allow teachers to use the film as an instructional and motivational tool
- Combatting inequality in the STEM fields by empowering young women, especially women of color, to pursue their passions for STEM
The contest was born out of a grassroots movement to organize free screenings in communities across the country. Following the film's theatrical release, 7th grader Taylor Richards set up one of countless GoFundMe pages to crowdfund screenings for young girls like her. "I believe seeing this movie will give us girls the inspiration we need to say, 'I can be a mathematician, an engineer or better yet, an astronaut,'" said Richards, who raised nearly $20,000 herself.
This audience-led trend inspired 21CF to launch the nationwide screening contest that would extend through Black History Month in February and Women's History Month in March.
Hidden Figures tells the previously untold story of three female African American mathematicians who played crucial roles in the 1960s Space Race. Their triumphs in the face of the era's racism and sexism, as well as their groundbreaking work in their fields, provide for a film that is as timely as it is inspiring, and normalizes a passion for STEM in young women and people of color.
The topline goal of spreading this message with as large an audience as possible directly correlates to empowering young women and people of color to pursue STEM education. To meet these goals, 21CF adopted the following strategy:
- Make Hidden Figures available for free in communities where it might have the strongest impact
- Use the online contest model to identify schools, nonprofits, and youth development programs across the country to serve as key partners in inspiring students to pursue STEM
- Connect the screenings to broader celebrations of Black History Month and Women's History Month to further engage target audiences
- Develop educational materials available for free along with complimentary DVD copies of Hidden Figures that allow teachers to use the film in the classroom across a range of disciplines
Following the film's national theatrical release in January 2017, 21CF recognized the power and relevance of its story and continued to search for ways to make it available to the audiences with whom it resonated the most. Inspired by the surprising number of GoFundMe campaigns dedicated to funding free screenings of Hidden Figures, the company partnered with AMC Theatres to determine how best to expand the film's reach while making relevant educational materials available to classrooms across the U.S.
The first step was to host free screenings in 14 U.S. cities to commemorate Black History Month in February. To honor Women's History Month in March, 21CF and AMC Theatres hosted a contest through which schools, community groups, and nonprofit organizations could apply for additional special screenings to be held in their towns. Applications were open throughout February, and 33 winners were notified in March.
To further extend the film's impact as an educational tool, the company made Hidden Figures DVDs available to high school classrooms free of charge, and partnered with nonprofit Journeys in Film to release a free Hidden Figures curriculum guide for school teachers across the country. The guide comprises comprehensive, standards-aligned lesson plans and is interdisciplinary, offering various lenses through which students can approach the social issues raised in the film.
Inspired by past and present women working in STEM, the curriculum guide highlights the dedication, confidence, and academic excellence that these three women conveyed in the film. It also helps students understand the historical context of the film's events, including the Space Race's role in the Cold War, the logistics of space flight, and the significance of the Civil Rights Movement.
Teachers across the U.S. can download the Hidden Figures curriculum guide and request a free DVD to screen the movie and spark discussion in the classroom.
Its striking story made Hidden Figures a global hit, grossing over $230 million worldwide and earning the title of the highest-grossing Best Picture nominee at the 2017 Academy Awards while building positive buzz and garnering major industry press across outlets such as Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter, and Variety, as well as popular blogs targeting entertainment and African American audiences. Yet, 21CF's emphasis on free inclusive screenings helped Hidden Figures reach the audience with whom it resonated most—students, women, and young women of color.
Over 7,000 schools, community groups, and nonprofits around the country applied for screenings, and 21CF distributed approximately 3,500 free tickets as a result. The winning groups were diverse in range, including public schools, Girl Scout clubs, college STEM initiatives, and youth development programs in cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Columbus, Grand Rapids, Houston, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia.
Hidden Figures has evolved the mindsets and perspectives of its audience by normalizing female aptitude for math and science, a critical first step in reducing inequality in STEM. Companies such as JetBlue and the Lego Group have witnessed the movie's magic and taken up the mantel of driving support of STEM education, announcing innovative initiatives of their own. Women currently only make up 28% of the U.S. STEM workforce, and women of color make up less than 10% of all women in STEM, but with the help of galvanizing stories like Hidden Figures, undoubtedly many of these jobs will soon be filled by talented young women.
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