Everyone knows that box office doesn’t reflect quality one way or the other. Terrible movies do well, and great movies bomb. Sometimes, a great movie will do well, and sometimes, terrible movies will rightly fail. It means nothing in the end.
Personally, I love seeing movies I love do well at the box office, and watching the numbers makes me smile (Titanic, Avatar, Lord of the Rings) and it hurts when movies I like/love “bomb” but the bright side in today’s world is that once the movies come out on DVD/streaming, they can be discovered.
In the Fright Night thread I off-topically mentioned both The Guard and In Bruges. I love that movie, but it only made $7,800,824 domestic (though it only played in 232 theaters, which has to be a pretty good per screen average). It played quite a bit better overseas, making $25,593,616, for a worldwide total of $33,394,440.
The weird and wonderful The Guard, written and directed by the brother of In Bruges’s writer-director, has made $1,235,000 ($6,188,252 worldwide total) playing in 83 theaters. As I mentioned, anyone who loves In Bruges will (almost certainly) love The Guard and if it’s playing anywhere near it’s worth supporting, but if it’s not nearby, when it comes out on DVD/streaming, it’ll make a terrific double feature with In Bruges
My obsession with Attack The Block has only been hinted at here, but obsessed I am and it hurts that its not being treated like the crowdpleaser it should be. The distributor is rolling it out in severely limited release, but so slowly that it’s closing in cities before it even opens in others. It’s not going to become a phenomenon that way. So far it’s only made $600,000 in 44 theaters in the US, and $4,275,216 overseas. I have no doubt that it will be an enduring cult classic and will explode once it’s on DVD/streaming, but still.
The fantastic ultra low budget Another Earth has only made $937,000, but it will endure as the career beginning of two amazingly talented people, writer-director Mike Cahill and writer-lead actress Brit Marling.
The truly beautiful-hearted film Beginners has only made $5,584,208 from 170 theaters, $11,023,065 worldwide. It should have been widely released and a hit among those who complain that there aren’t enough movies out there for intelligent and empathetic grown-ups. However, I have little doubt it will go on to get at least one and probably several Oscar nominations (you heard it here first), including Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. Awards attention will make up for its being ignored when it was in the theater. The same thing happened to my favorite movie of last year, Winter’s Bone. It made only $6,531,503 in 141 theaters, $13,831,503 worldwide total, yet went on to get 4 major Oscar nominations. Which I predicted [/obnoxious gloat].
There are so many others.
All that got me to looking up the box office totals of movies that are generally considered to be cult classic. I thought I’d list a few and their box office. Some were not released outside the US, or did such negligible business there are no foreign totals listed.
The Big Lebowski ($17,451,873)
The Shawshank Redemption ($28,341,469)
Shaun of the Dead ($13,542,874 domestic, $30,039,392 worldwide total)
Office Space ($10,827,810)
Blue Velvet ($8,551,228)
Mulholland Drive ($7,220,243 domestic, $20,117,339 worldwide total)