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'Moonlight' | © A24/Altitude films
'Moonlight' | © A24/Altitude films
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'Moonlight' Was the Second Lowest-Grossing Movie Ever to Win the Best Picture Oscar

Picture of Cassam Looch
Film Editor
Updated: 27 October 2017
As the dust begins to settle on the shambolic climax to this year’s Oscars, nothing can detract from the spectacular success of the small budget indie hit that claimed the biggest prize of all. Going into the Academy Awards, La La Land led the way, but it was Moonlight that was eventually triumphant despite the fact that it was one of the lowest-grossing films to claim the Best Picture Oscar.

It was a historic moment when director Barry Jenkins and the cast of Moonlight eventually took to the stage and walked away with the last Oscar of the night. Although we’ll never forget the moment when Warren Beatty was handed the wrong envelope and incorrectly pronounced La La Land as the victor, looking back the bigger story is that Moonlight became the first film with an all-black cast to win Best Picture.

It also became the first LGBTQ-focused movie to win.

No doubt the success will see the movie go on to huge box-office returns, but going into the glittering ceremony, the film was second only to The Hurt Locker (2008) in terms of lowest financial performance to win.

The Hurt Locker | © Summit Entertainment
‘The Hurt Locker’ | © Summit Entertainment

Of course the Oscars rarely reward the blockbusters that end the year at the top of the pile, but they do tend to consider them. James Cameron’s Titanic was just too huge not to be in the running when it won in 1998 and most people consider the 2004 victory for Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as a reward for the overall success of Peter Jackson’s franchise films.

Interestingly, The Hurt Locker actually beat out the most successful film of all time, Avatar, to win best picture in 2010. That year, though, Kathryn Bigelow also won best director, so when La La Land helmer Damien Chazelle picked up his award on Sunday, it seemed like Moonlight would have to make do with a handful of other wins. Little could we predict the drama that was to follow…

With the announcement that Moonlight was to see a huge expansion across the UK (where the film only recently opened) and almost certainly see a similar wide opening across the US, the box-office numbers are certain to see a dramatic change.

Moonlight is out now.