The Top 10 Great Films That Died at the Box Office
Over the years, a small number of films have somehow broken out of their cocoon well after their release to entertain audiences the world over. Sometimes a movie doesn’t have to make a billion dollars to be a success.
10. Donnie Darko
Source: Flower Films/Pandora/Newmarket Films
I still can’t believe that I’m like one of four people that actually saw this in the theater. I also find it funny that Donnie Darko was rereleased into theaters back in 2004 and still couldn’t make back its original budget. It’s only made $4,116,307 to date and Richard Kelly originally shot Darko for $4.5 million. Needless to say, it was a financial failure. It also didn’t help things that Darko’s limited release came during the month after the September 11 attacks. Talk about bad luck.
On the flipside, due to a mind-bending plot and a solid soundtrack filled with Tears For Fears classics, Donnie Darko took on a life of its own after failing out of theatres. When Darko dropped on DVD and VHS fanatics of the feature slowly grew like the Blob. Everywhere you turned people were going bonkers about how awesome of a film it was. Even though it may not be everyone’s bag, it’s nice to see a movie that actually lives up to the hype.
9. Office Space
Source: 20th Century Fox
Talk about a film with legs. When it hit theatres back in 1999, Office Space seemed to come and go completely unnoticed. Its tenure in theatres only saw the cult gem take in $824,921 in profit. As far as 20th Century Fox was concerned, they had a serious flop on their hands. What they didn’t know then was that Mike Judge’s masterpiece about cubicle life would shortly go on to become one of the most beloved comedies of all time. I’m not totally sure how this happened so effortlessly, but it proved that box office numbers don’t mean squat when it comes to what a dedicated a fan base can do to a movie once they're able to view it on repeat from the comfort of their own desk.
Source: Touchstone Pictures
The saddest thing about the movie business is the fact that it’s more business than art. Rushmore is a perfect example of this. The Wes Anderson masterwork that is Rushmore instantly proved that just because a film was critically acclaimed doesn’t mean it was a success by the studio’s standards.
Rushmore cost $20,000,000 to put together and only made a little over $17 million after a very generous indie release. By looking at how critics praised the film as well as the many award nominations it received, you would have thought that Rushmore was one of the highest grossing films of the late '90s. Sadly, it was not. I really wouldn’t be surprised if the soundtrack ended up making more loot than the film actually did.
7. Big Trouble in Little China
Source: 20th Century Fox
This is hands down one of my favorite action films of all time. John Carpenter’s directing really hit an all-time high and Kurt Russell’s portrayal of the legendary Jack Burton went on to become one of the most ridiculously awesome onscreen performances ever. So how did it all go wrong back in 1986?
Big Trouble cost an estimated $25,000,000 to make but only took in a measly $11,100,000 after all was said and done. Talk about a strikeout, people. That’s a pretty weak performance for a John Carpenter movie starring Kurt Russell in the 1980s. It’s not like the two didn’t have a solid track record leading up to the opening of the film. Escape From New York took in $50,000,000 just 5 years prior to BTILC. I’m not 100% sure why audiences and critics like Roger Ebert dropped the ball on this one, but thanks to numerous late-night reruns on TBS, the Pork Chop Express and Egg Shen forced their way into our hearts. I guess James Cameron's Aliens being released just sixteen days after Big Trouble might have had a little to do with it.
6. Glengarry Glen Ross
Source: New Line Cinema
Easily one of David Mamet’s finest writing works, Glengarry Glen Ross is American cinema at its finest. With an all-star cast consisting of Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, and Alec Baldwin, it’s hard to see how GGR only made $10,725,228 when it was released in 1992.
Put together for around $12,500,000, it's sad to think that this gem almost got swallowed up by other movies that were more financially successful at the time. Thanks to real film fans and dedicated followers, Glengarry seemed to take on cult status pretty much overnight. Jack Lemmon’s portrayal of Shelley Levene is the stuff of legend, and Baldwin’s "brass balls" monologue could be the greatest of all time.