Just as you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you probably shouldn’t judge a film’s success by its box office takings. Some movies just need a little time to creep into the public’s consciousness. A film might flop at cinema, but give it a year or two and there’s a copy of the DVD in everyone’s living room. Here are 13 box office disappointments that eventually soared.
Fight Club, 1999: David Fincher’s violent drama, based on Chuck Palahniuk’s experimental novel, reportedly cost $63m to make but took just $37m at the US box office. Yet it won a ton of awards, became one of the best-loved films on the ’90s and shifted a boat-load of DVDs, turning into a sleeper smash. I am Jack’s huge sense of relief.
Donnie Darko, 2001: This dark teen drama, which introduced Jake Gyllenhaal to the world, barely made any noise at the box office, grossing a measly $517,735 in American. Yet the word-of-mouth hit reportedly made $10m off the back of DVD sales worldwide. Not bad for an unknown 26-year-old’s directorial debut about a boy and his six foot nightmare rabbit, eh?
The Big Lebowski, 1998: The Coen Brother’s slacker comedy cost $15m to make but made only $2m profit at the American box office, but found its audience on DVD/VHS and has established it self as one of the best comedy’s of the last 25 years. It even spawned its own festival, Lebowski Fest in 2002, which in 2011 was attended by the film’s star Jeff Bridges.
Blade Runner, 1982: Production of this sci-fi thriller went over-budget to $28m from a planned estimate of $13m, but recouped only $6m in its first week in American cinemas. When director Ridley Scott put out a ‘Director’s Cut’ in 1992 and a ‘Final Cut’ in 2007, they became two of the most popular and talked-about home releases ever.
Dredd, 2012: The 2012 comic book flick didn’t even make back its production costs upon release. However, home release sales helped establish the film as a modern classic, with over $10m in sales from North America alone. Fans even campaigned for a sequel, hoping the DVD sales would sway studio execs.
Showgirls, 1995: This saucy drama was regarded as one of the biggest cinematic failures of all time, falling $7m short of its bloated $45m budget in worldwide box office takings. However it found a second life in home media with video rentals reaching a staggering $100m in the US alone and subsequently became one of its studio’s (MGM) best ever home video releases.
Dazed And Confused, 1993: Richard Linklater’s cult classic grossed only $1.1m on release in the US. The film, centred on a group of Texan teenagers in 1976, soon found its audience due to a soundtrack featuring KISS, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, which shifted over two million copies alone. DVD sales are now reported to have topped $30m worldwide.
Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, 1998: Terry Gilliam’s ambitious adaptation of Hunter S Thompson’s surreal novel about a drug-fuelled adventure, starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, fell flat at the American pictures with $10.5m return on an $18m budget, but has been a strong seller on DVD, perhaps in part due to ongoing fascination with the writer.
Wet Hot American Summer, 2001: Despite starring a whole host of now-famous actors inducing Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, this 2001 comedy made only $295,000 on a $1.8m budget in the United States. However as the cast gained stardom, the film began to pick up new home viewers, resulting in a Netflix prequel starring the entire original cast.
Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, 1971: This adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book Charlie And The Chocolate Factory proved too dark for cinema viewers. The film, starring Gene Wilder in the title role, returned only $4m worldwide from a $3m budget. However a successful stint on VHS and a re-release in 1996 established the musical comedy as a must-have DVD.
Office Space, 1999: A poor marketing schedule by Fox caused this work-based comedy to pass without a lasting impact. However, after popularity on cable TV channels, the film began to pickup steam in the early 2000s, around two years after release. By 2006, DVD sales had reached over six million in the US alone.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World, 2010: Edgar’s Wright’s comic book movie about an unlucky-in-love musician went bombed at the box office, barely recuperating half of its $85m budget. The nerd culture references struck a chord with fans, though, as the DVD sold over 200,000 copies in it’s first week and reached $30m in a year from US sales.
Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975: This unlikely horror/sci-fi/musical mash-up was initially was released in only eight cities across the US. It was pulled from release after raking in $22,000. Following home video releases and the ever-more liberal attitudes of 1980s America, the sexually charged film developed a cult status, with its memorable characters becoming fancy dress staples.