2016 is officially over, thank the stars, and that means it's time to tally up the total box office for the year. While most of the standard record holders are to be expected, one Oscar hopeful set a record of its own. La La Land still isn't in nearly as many theaters as most major releases, but enough people sought it out in 2016 to make it the highest-grossing limited release film of the year.
By last Friday La La Land had grossed $27.8 million and was expected to be somewhere around $29 million by the end of the weekend. This puts it ahead of Hell or High Water which grossed $27 million during its limited run. According to The Hollywood Reporter, La La Land is only in about 1200 theaters, about a quarter of what most major releases see. This often means that moviegoers who want to check it out may have to go further out of their way than normal if they want to find it. La La Land was also able to outperform Hell or High Water in fewer theaters, as that film saw seen in on 1500 screens at its peak.
Hopefully, the strong 2016 showing is a good sign for the film's 2017 prospects. La La Land is expected to perform strongly in the annual awards season including the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. La La Land is getting a great deal of love from both movie fans and critics. Both stars of the film, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are heavy favorites for Oscar nominations along with the film itself.
However, while many of the 2016 awards films have hit their peak already, several others have yet to make their major push. Films like Hidden Figures and Martin Scorsese's Silence opened in only a few select theaters in 2016 in order to qualify for awards consideration and will be seeing wider release in the early part of 2017.
While La La Land's box office looks absolutely minuscule in comparison to most releases, due to the film's smaller budget the expectation for the movie is much different. In the end, financial success is simply a consideration of the difference between the costs and the revenue, so La La Land can be as big a hit as a major blockbuster, but on a very different scale.
Time will tell if La La Land ends up being as big a hit with the awards crowds as it is with audiences. The Golden Globes take place next Sunday which is seen as a precursor to the Oscars. If La La Land does well there then Oscar night could be the biggest night yet for the film.