Brilliant movies that bombed at the box office.

Brilliant movies that bombed at the box office.

In 1946, the independent production company Liberty Films staked its future, and $2.3 million of hard-earned capital, on a supernatural drama about a suicidal bank clerk. The project was meant to kick off a lucrative nine-picture deal with the RKO studio. But reviews of this “sloppy” and “simplified” adventure were decidedly mixed (bad news for its poor director, a Sicilian immigrant whose career was already on the wane), while the FBI objected to his alleged communist leanings.

On its initial release, it lost more than half a million dollars, bankrupted its production company, and failed to deliver on any of its five Oscar nominations. Presumably, after all that, this mess was quickly forgotten. Not quite: in fact, there’s a good chance you’ve seen it in the past few months. It’s How Wonderful It Is to Live, by Frank Capra.

It’s fair to say, then, that great movies don’t always initially find the reception they deserve. Babylon, which opened in UK cinemas last weekend, might well be the latest example: Damien Chazelle’s raucous, sprawling parable of early Hollywood excess has received a mostly hostile critical reception and, at least in the US, a deafening indifference. of moviegoers. (Barely a fifth of its $80 million budget has been recovered.)

But this writer (who loved it) is already eagerly awaiting the retest, scheduled for 2033 or so. Whether it’s madly out of step with its time, or just the kind of wild singular swings that take audiences a while to accept, here are some more notable bombshells that later achieved classic status. robbie collin

mother! (2017)

Budget: $30 million
Starting US gross: $17.8 million

Notoriously Darren Aronofsky’s mother! features a climactic scene in which Jennifer Lawrence’s newborn baby is torn apart and eaten by a gang of delusional cultists. It’s perhaps not entirely a surprise, then, that the audience assessment of this film, Aronofsky’s most brazen directorial statement, was one of those rare F’s on CinemaScore, which stands for disaster. Part crypto-environmental allegory, part essay on the artist/muse paradigm, part home invasion horror movie (to a point), part Bible-thumping passion game and utterly insane, this was clearly impossible to corner on any known marketing. niche, which in some eyes (though not these!) is the worst crime any movie can commit.

Fortunately, we’re not all marketing corps at Paramount Pictures, the studio brave enough to give even a $30 million budget to such a feast: auteur provocative show. The entire release was one big headache: After a deafeningly divided reaction in Venice, Paramount had Aronofsky and Lawrence throw everyone on the promo circuit into confusion, pretending not to be a couple at the time and having to explain aspects of the film. that nobody. had not seen it was in a position to understand. Plus, Warner Bros.’s remake of IT, the most popular R-rated horror movie since The Exorcist, was cleaning up at that exact moment.

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