The Top 10 Great Films That Died at the Box Office
5. The Big Lebowski
Source: Working Title Films/PolyGram
The Big Lebowski was made for $15,000,000 but only took in $5,533,844 during the film’s opening weekend. Lebowski went on to rake in a whopping $17,439,163 in the U.S. before dropping out of theatres for good.
With that said, people need to remember that this was the Coen brothers’ follow-up to the extremely successful Fargo. It was a flop to say the least. I vividly remember seeing this in the theater by myself because I couldn’t find anyone else that would go with me. During its time in theatres, The Big Lebowski was neither a financial success nor a critical one. These conclusions all gradually started to ring untrue when the film was finally released for home viewing. Somehow, The Dude began to infect anyone and everyone that decided to buy the ticket and take the ride. I could go on and on about why this is one of the greatest comedies off all time and how the script is near flawless, but I’ll let The Dude, Walter Sobchak, and Theodore Donald Kerabatsos do the talking for me on this one.
4. Fight Club
Source: 20th Century Fox
When taking it all in, it’s completely obvious that the $63,000,000 David Fincher used to make Fight Club was worth every single penny. Too bad U.S. audiences back in 1999 didn’t know that one of the most badass and creative films of all time had just been released right under their very noses. Maybe that’s why the movie only made a little over $37,000,000 during its theatrical release in the States. It's true that the film did see some very solid success overseas, but as far as the U.S. went, Fight Club was just another movie where Brad Pitt got to show off his ripped abs. How wrong we all were. If we only knew that this was going to be our generation’s A Clockwork Orange.
3. The Wizard of Oz
This may seem nuts to most, but MGM was none too happy after their $2.8 million investment into The Wizard of Oz barely took in $3 million at the box office back in 1939. The now-classic musical did gain an additional $1.5 million after a re-release in 1949, but Oz was not a blockbuster smash when first unveiled at the Strand Theatre in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
Looking back now, it’s quite obvious that the Judy Garland classic had to be a little over everyone’s head. It's funny that one of the most iconic pieces of cinema Hollywood has to offer was initially a gigantic flop.
2. Blade Runner
Source: The Ladd Company/Warner Bros.
For being one of the most beloved sci-fi thrillers of all time, Blade Runner was looking like a lost cause when first released back in 1982. Can you believe that a $28,000,000 movie like Blade Runner didn’t even break even after its initial release? Ridley Scott’s visionary film is such a staple in the genre that you would just assume that it’s easily one of the top-grossing films of all time. Wrong.
An obvious reason why it failed at the box office was that its release coincided with other sci-fi films such as The Thing and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Both of these features are classics in their own right, but this is freakin’ Blade Runner we’re talking about here. I honestly have complete confidence when saying that, to me, the film is damn near perfect. It has everything you would want in a blockbuster feature and then some. Harrison Ford is also action’s greatest leading man.
1. Citizen Kane
Source: Mercury Theatre/RKO Pictures
Most consider the 1941 landmark Citizen Kane to be the greatest cinematic feat of all time, but due to a beef with the man Charles Foster Kane was based on, William Randolph Hearst, Orson Welles’ crown jewel didn’t make nearly as much of a splash as it should have.
Not only did publishing giant Hearst refuse to accept advertising for the film in his newspapers, it was reported that one chain controlling more than 500 theaters even refused to play Welles' Kane out of fear of what Hearst would do in retaliation. Citizen Kane lost $150,000 during its initial run due to these actions from Hearst. That’s some serious business, yo.
Shot for around $839,727, Kane was initially unable to make back its budget at the box office. This made people consider the film a flop. Kane did go on to nab nine Academy Award nominations, but its somewhat lackluster opening didn’t give it the true unveiling it deserved. What’s AFI's #1 rated film, again?