There's another important reason though, according to Hunt: The movie appeals across demographics.
"It's a film about women. It’s not just about African-Americans. It's about women. I think it particularly appeals to female audiences as well."
Exit polling data supports Hunt's observation. Moviefone reported that 43% of "Hidden Figures" viewers were white, 37% were Black, and 13% were Hispanic in its opening weekend.
Film producer Donna Gigliotti optioned Margot Lee Shetterly's eponymous book on the NASA mathematicians. She told The Los Angeles Times that she knew "Hidden Figures" would be a massive success.
"I always believed that there was a huge audience for this story," she said. "I am blessed by having investors and a company who let me go and develop anything I get the feeling about. But everybody else thought I was nuts about trying to make a movie about three Black women mathematicians in 1962."
"Hidden Figures" has exceeded commercial and critical expectations — and it should also shift the way movies are green-lit and marketed.
As Hunt explained, films that feature people of color in the titular roles are often considered "niche market movies." "Hidden Figures" might aid in the changing of that perception.
"For example, take Tyler Perry films: The expectation is they'll probably be profitable because they don’t cost that much to make and we know that the Black audience will go and see that film, but hardly anybody else, so that's kind of the expectation," he said. "What was unusual about ['Hidden Figures'] is that it did, up to date, nearly $90 million at the box office, and obviously has appealed to multiple audiences in order to make that much money, so that's not what you typically see."
Henson also spoke to this in her Instagram response to "Hidden Figures" beating "Rogue One" at the box office.
"I have been told my entire career Black women can't open films domestically or internationally," she wrote in her Instagram caption. "Well, anything is possible. Most importantly this proves that people like good material, has nothing to do with gender or race. Agreed?!"
Ultimately, diversity pays, as Gigliotti told The Los Angeles Times.
"It goes to the heart of what I say over and over again, and that is, frankly, that diversity pays — if you make movies that look like the rest of the country," she said. "People want to see their own stories up on the big screen."
"Hidden Figures" tapped into that urgent need to be represented — and is being rightfully rewarded for it.