Jason Smith

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

It’s surprising that a film starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro could become a box office flop. Depp is a versatile actor and always delivers engaging performances, no matter his role. Furthermore, he is great at playing quirky and unorthodox characters like the one of Raoul Duke.

However, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas received very mixed reviews. While some critics loved it, others passionately hated the film. And yet, this was just the effect the director, Terry Gilliam, aimed for. In an interview with ELLE magazine, he said: “I want it to be seen as one of the greatest movies of all time, and one of the most hated movies of all time.”

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is now among the classic Vegas-themed movies, but upon release it made only $13.7 million, failing to cover its budget of $18.5 million. However, when the film was released to DVD with a stellar Criterion Collection edition, critical reviews quickly shifted and turned mostly positive. This made the movie a cult classic, beloved by people to this very day.

The Boondock Saints

The Boondock Saints is now a modern classic. However, it had a very troubled lifespan. The screenplay was inspired by some quite gruesome events. The then-bartender Troy Duffy had never written a screenplay before, but he decided to do so when he witnessed a drug dealer stealing money off a dead body across the hall from his apartment. He then gave the screenplay to a producer’s assistant at New Line Cinema. After it went through several studios, Miramax bought the rights and promised a $15 million budget.

However, things fell apart due to numerous reasons, so a bit more time passed until Franchise Pictures decided to back Duffy and his project with $6 million. The cast was then finalised, and filming began in Toronto, with the final scenes being shot in Boston.

And yet, due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, The Boondock Saints saw a very limited release. When the film launched in early 2000, it was shown for only a week in just five US theaters. The overall box office amounted to the tiny $30,471, which obviously needs a few more zeroes to be considered a financial success.

It was Blockbuster that saved the movie, as Duffy managed to strike a deal with them for a direct-to-video release. Blockbuster’s stellar marketing resulted in $50 million from rentals and the film is now a cult classic, with a sequel released a few years ago and a third film stuck somewhere in development hell.

Office Space

Office Space is a movie that captured the pre-millennial office culture brilliantly. It delivered great comical performances by Ron Livingston and Gary Cole, but even Jennifer Aniston’s involvement in the film couldn’t save it from the misjudged marketing campaign. On release, Office Space made only $12.2 million for its $10 million budget, which left 20th Century Fox in the red, considering all other expenses around the movie.

However, it still became a cult classic when it launched to DVD, making $7.6 million off that. A lot of the snappy one-liners featured in the movie got deeply embedded in popular culture, including the phrase “bad case of the Mondays,” which can be heard in almost any office across the globe today. And we’re pretty sure that anyone with an access to a TV or a computer has seen the brilliantly shot printer scene.

With a huge portion of the world working in similar offices across the globe, the movie pulled heart strings that some people didn’t even know existed. This is why it is still relevant today and it remains a fan-favourite.

Big Trouble in Little China

Remember the ‘80s, when Kurt Russell was in every other movie and every stereotypical senior Chinese character was played by James Hong? Those were dark times indeed, but in between the expectedly-average action flicks from that era, a surprising cult film emerged.

Big Trouble in Little China is now an ‘80s classic, but it initially flopped upon release.

The director, John Carpenter, joined the project at the last possible moment and the studio was forced to rush production, so they could release the flick before Eddie Murphy’s The Golden Child, which features a very similar east-meets-west theme. This resulted in a film that confused audiences and didn’t resonate well with most people. Big Trouble in Little China only made $11.1 million, failing to cover even half of its $25 million budget.

However, it later hit home video and the great satirical performances made it a huge success. Viewers couldn’t get enough of the excessive martial arts and absurd humour. Then, the film started appearing in indie cinemas all around the US and now, it is regarded as one of the best comedies of the ‘80s.

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane is widely regarded as the best film ever made, period. However, when it was released in 1941, it failed to meet box office expectations. And yet, its financial failure was not due to it being written and directed by Orson Welles, a then-untested actor, who also took the main role and had final cut privileges over the film. It wasn’t the producers or marketers that caused the flop, either. It was the press.

Charles Kane, the main character of the movie, was based in part on the newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. At the time, Hearst was the owner of the biggest newspaper chain in the world, which numbered approximately 30 major publications across the US at its peak.

Hearst was not flattered by Welles’s portrayal of him, so he forbid all of his newspapers mentioning the film in any way, which resulted in the movie losing huge amounts of publicity.

Welles’ debut masterpiece couldn’t meet box office expectations and flopped despite its huge-for-the-times budget and unprecedented quality in just about every aspect.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

The 1971 classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was released to widely positive critical reviews. However, it failed to make up for its $3 million budget and raked in just a million over that. This was probably, in no small part, thanks to the movie’s theme itself. A dark adventure-comedy musical for children doesn’t sound like the best formula, so we can see why parents would be hesitant to take their kids to the cinema. Furthermore, the movie was too quirky for grownups to understand and it was based on a book by Roald Dahl, who disowned the movie after his initial screenplay was rewritten by the uncredited David Seltzer, due to Dahl missing his deadlines.

And still, in the end, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory found its audience. Years later, when it was released for home video and started appearing on TV broadcasts, the film enjoyed great success. A lot of now-grownups who missed the movie as children caught onto it and the nostalgia-fueled fame of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory kept it alive for decades to come, even resulting in a remake starring Johnny Depp.

Blade Runner

Harrison Ford was already a star, thanks in no small part to the first two Star Wars movies and the Indiana Jones franchise, when Blade Runner premiered. The now-cult movie hit theaters across the globe in 1982, after it was produced with a budget of $28 million.

It was met with mixed reviews from critics, and viewers saw it as just another run-of-the-mill sci-fi flick. In the end, when it was taken off the silver screen, Blade Runner had grossed a measly $33 million.

The film’s failure was probably due to the crowded release calendar at the time, too. Blade Runner had to compete with The Thing, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Conan the Barbarian, and E.T., all of which are now regarded as classics.

However, the power of home video did not fail to impress once more. When Blade Runner was released on VHS and DVD, it managed to find its perfect audience. It is now known as one of the best sci-fi movies in history.

Fight Club

Fight Club is undoubtedly a great movie. One that draws the audience in and keeps it on the edge of its seat until the very end. And while it is now regarded as a cult classic, 20th Century Fox were not impressed with the idea of Fight Club. They deemed it too volatile and believed it to be a financial risk. Despite that, the company still produced the flick.

Then, the hunt for a director began and a lot of names were considered. Some of them were busy with other projects, while others were just not interested in the assignment. In the end, David Fincher was brought to the project. Choosing the cast members was not that easy either. Russell Crowe was considered for the role of Tyler Durden, while Matt Damon and Sean Penn were some of the options for portraying The Narrator. In the end, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton were signed, both of whom delivered incredible performances.

However, it was the marketing that stopped the movie from being hugely successful. The studio was not happy with the final cut of the movie, which led to an overhaul of the original marketing plan. Fox focused entirely on the fighting scenes, aiming for a specific male demographic, but missed the mark. The movie managed to make only $37 million from the silver screen, failing to meet its $63 million budget.

It was the DVD release that brought in the big bucks. When Fight Club was released for the small screen, it managed to make $100 million just off the DVD edition, which is quite impressive for a box office flop.

The Shawshank Redemption

One of the greatest movies of the ‘90s, The Shawshank Redemption came with great performances by its lead actors – Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. However, it still managed to flop on its initial release. After it was produced with a budget of $25 million in 1993, the 1994 theatrical run grossed only $16 million.

Many reasons were cited for the movie’s flop. It had to deal with very solid competition by Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump. Furthermore, it lacked any female characters, and prison movies were generally unpopular at the time. Even its title was pointed out as a possible reason, as viewers found it confusing.

However, critics didn’t let the movie fly under their radars. They gave The Shawshank Redemption very positive reviews. What’s more, the film was nominated for an impressive number of awards, including seven Academy Award nominations. With that support by the industry, Castle Rock made the sound decision to re-release The Shawshank Redemption, which managed to increase the box office to $58.3 million. People were just keener to watch a movie that had two Golden Globes and seven Oscar nominations.

Later, it was released on VHS and it shipped over 320,000 tapes. On the small screen, The Shawshank Redemption managed to grow its fan base even further, solidifying its position as a ‘90s classic that is still being run on repeat on TV today.

The Big Lebowski

All of the movies we talked about so far are classics. All of them have a huge fan base that not a lot of flicks can brag about. However, none of them started a religion. And not some weird sect that would creep everyone out, but a religious group that encourages its followers to be cool-headed and to take it easy.

That’s exactly what the cult classic The Big Lebowski managed. The religion of Dudeism was based on a movie that just barely managed to make up for its $15 million budget by earning $17 million in the US. It made some more abroad, but overall, it was considered a box office flop.

However, when the movie was released for home video during the rise of the DVD format, it hit just the right audiences. Its peculiar characters, snappy dialogue, and great performances by the lead actors resonated well with small-screen viewers and the movie established itself as a timeless classic.


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