Hidden Figures, based on the true story of the first black female supervisor at NASA and her struggle against racism, has the distinction of being the highest-grossing movie among the Best Picture nominees. It was exceptionally popular in the Southeast, with areas such as Atlanta and the Carolinas, particularly prominently represented. Columbus, OH, where one of the film’s stars, Octavia Spencer, bought an entire film screening for disadvantaged families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to see the movie, was also among the areas with the highest interest.
La La Land
If there were any doubts that La La Land’s take on making it big in Los Angeles was a resounding success, one need only look at its record-breaking run at the Golden Globes, where the musical received a total of seven awards. It’s also up for 14 Oscars, tying the all-time nomination record with Titanic and All About Eve. The film tended to be popular in America’s urban centers, including the areas surrounding LA, New York, Washington, D.C., and other parts of the Northeast. Another hotspot included Austin, TX, where a local weatherman and TV host helped recreate an iconic La La Land sequence in a YouTube video set on the city’s Lamar Boulevard Bridge.
Hell or High Water
While La La Land was most popular among urban audiences, Hell or High Water, David Mackenzie’s tale of two West Texas brothers who rob banks to save the family ranch from foreclosure, found greatest resonance in rural areas. The Jeff Bridges-led cast saw its biggest fans spread across a thick swath of the Midwest, stretching north from Texas to Minnesota. Bosque County, TX, the birthplace of Taylor Sheridan, the film’s writer, as well as parts of Wyoming, where he currently lives, proved to be additional hotspots. New Mexico, where much of the movie was filmed, also showed disproportionately high interest.
Mel Gibson’s World War II biopic about Desmond Doss, the conscientious objector who received a Medal of Honor despite his refusal to carry a weapon, was another favorite outside of America’s big cities. Doss was a Seventh-day Adventist, and the Pacific Northwest, where many Seventh-day Adventists live today, showed particular enthusiasm for the movie, in addition to parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Virginia, where Doss grew up and decided to overtly reject violence at a young age, was another hotspot.
Amy Adams’ portrayal of a linguist tasked with communicating with alien visitors to Earth in Arrival is nominated for eight Oscars, and has been widely praised for its suspense, psychological explorations of its characters, and Adams’ strong performance. Despite the widely different subject matter, its fans are distributed most similarly to those of Hacksaw Ridge. In addition to the Pacific Northwest, where Ted Chiang, the author of the short story that Arrival is based on, resides, Virginia and Michigan showed the greatest interest. New England and Wyoming were also among the areas where the film saw the highest popularity.
Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s autobiographical script, poignantly and provocatively interweaves poverty and sexual identity across three decades in Liberty City, FL. Nominated for eight Oscars and having already won multiple awards (including Mahershala Ali’s Screen Actor’s Guild award for his supporting role), Moonlight has been most popular in the Northeast, as well as pockets of Delaware and Virginia. Georgia, where parts of the film take place, was another hotspot, particularly in the areas surrounding Atlanta.
August Wilson’s play, with the brash, fast-talking Denzel Washington as a former Negro leagues player who fell short of making it to Major League Baseball, was most popular in Maine, and throughout pockets of the Midwest. Kansas, the home state of Stephen McKinley Henderson, who plays the part of Washington’s best friend, was another region where Fences stood out in popularity.
Manchester By The Sea
In Manchester by the Sea, director Kenneth Lonergan creates a widely-lauded depiction of grief and resilience in a small Massachusetts town. The movie, which led to Casey Affleck’s Golden Globe for Best Actor, has been especially popular in smaller New England counties akin to those portrayed in the film (the film’s namesake is a small town of some 5,000 people). Audiences in Los Angeles, and its surrounding areas, also had a higher degree of interest.
Lion, the Dickensian story of a young Indian boy who loses himself in 1980s Calcutta before being adopted by Australian parents, is characterized by strong performances, with both Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman nominated for Best Supporting Actor/Actress Oscars. It’s one of the few movies that’s notable in its high popularity in Washington, D.C. and its surrounding counties, as well as the Four Corners, where New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah meet and the Navajo Nation territory is located.
Oscars Award Categories
Compare the regional popularity of each film for the major Oscars categories.
We’ve also noticed some broader regional differences between watching habits of the US coasts and the midwest: