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Box Office Flops - More Than Meets the Eye?
There's something oddly satisfying about seeing a big-budget movie flop. Whenever we hear about these ambitious, special effects-laden extravaganzas going down in flames we get an odd feeling of schadenfreude.
But why is this? Does it stem from the fact that we feel manipulated, almost exploited, by the movie industry? Perhaps. After all, movie studios make a lot of coin from tweaking our emotions, be it through adrenaline-filled action films or mawkishly tear-jerking weepies.
Perhaps the best reason for our guilty pleasure at seeing a big-budget movie flop is the fact that we feel like we won a battle. We caught Hollywood trying to pull a fast one by releasing a bad movie and trying to hype it anyway -- and we weren't fooled. Gotcha. Better luck next time.
That's all well and good, but there have been many excellent movies throughout the years that, for whatever reason, failed to make it big at the box office. Hey, just because a movie didn't make a lot of money on its release doesn't make it bad -- after all, Citizen Kane barely made enough to cover the cost of a wooden sled on its original release. It wasn't until its re-release and television syndication that it became perhaps the most critically acclaimed movie of all time.
So, here's a look at two movies that didn't live up to expectations on their release, but later went on to disprove the critics:
Despite eventually becoming an enormous cult hit, Fight Club performed poorly on its release. With a budget of million it took just million at the US box office. On its release the movie drew mixed critical reactions, partly due to its violent nature. One high profile critic described it as "a film without a single redeeming quality, which may have to find its audience in Hell", and the flop cost the Entertainment Chief of 20th Century Fox his job.
Despite a tepid reception, Fight Club went on to turn a small profit at the global box office before exploding in popularity in the DVD market, becoming one of the best-loved films of the 90s. Today you'd be hard pressed to find a young man's DVD collection that didn't boast a Fight Club DVD.
One of the most well known box office flops of recent years, The Shawshank Redemption, based on a Steven King novella, came up against the might of Forrest Gump at the box office. Audiences preferred Hanks' feel good vehicle over this depressing prison drama and, although Shawshank garnered 7 Oscar nominations, the box office take was pathetic.
This all changed once the movie was released on video. Bolstered by the Oscar endorsements Shawshank became the most rented video of 1995, going on to become our 2nd favorite movie of all time according to an Internet Movie Database poll.
The moral of the story, it seems, is that you should probably think twice before dismissing a movie based on its box office success. Movies are always at their most enjoyable when seen on the big screen, so you shouldn't miss out on the chance to see them as they were meant to be seen simply because the audiences can't tell a Hollywood gem from fools gold. After all, these are the same people who made Ernest Goes to Jail the number one movie in its opening week. Would you trust them?
About the Author: From box office flops to blockbuster films, James Shenton is a movie expert and industry analyst from New York, specializing in picking the hits from the misses.
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