Critically Acclaimed Films No One Saw In Theaters

If a film earns widespread critical acclaim
but audiences don’t turn out to watch it in theaters, is it still worth your time? That’s a question that’s been posed plenty
of times in response to the lackluster performances of tentpole films like Blade Runner 2049 and
Solo. In order to try to answer that question, let’s
take a look into the past. Some of America’s very best movies were actually
box office bombs, and there’s an important lesson here: a box office flop isn’t always
unwatchable trash. Sometimes, it’s an incredible gem audiences
just missed seeing in the theaters, for one reason or another. Money might be Hollywood’s great equalizer,
but some movies are greater than the sum of their box office totals. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World In 2010, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World hit screens
with both the ultraviolence of a Quentin Tarantino movie and the sensibilities of a classic video
game. With Arrested Development’s Michael Cera playing
the film’s quirky hero, it felt as if the movie was destined for box office greatness. Instead… “If I peed my pants would you pretend I just
got wet from the rain?” “It’s not raining.” “Oh.” Universal Pictures poured a reported $60 million
into the film and stars like Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick, and future Captain
America Chris Evans rounded out the cast, but none of that helped the studio earn back
its money. Bringing in a mere $31 million domestically,
the movie did manage to win over the critics, with Peter Travers of Rolling Stone raving, “Scott Pilgrim is a breathless rush of a movie
that jumps off the screen, spins your head around and then stealthily works its way into
your heart.” So why didn’t more people rush to theaters
to see it? You can probably chalk it up to a combination
of poor marketing, the still growing comic-book movie formula, and the not-quite universal
star-power of Michael Cera. Man on the Moon In the late ’90s, Jim Carrey was, without
a doubt, at the top of Hollywood’s food chain. With the success of films like Ace Ventura,
Liar Liar, and The Mask under his belt, it seemed as if he could do no wrong. And when it was announced he would be bringing
the life story of legendary comic Andy Kaufman to the big screen, it felt like a no-brainer
that the rubber-faced, often-misunderstood comedian would do a great job paying tribute
to one of his heroes. Unfortunately, Man on the Moon wasn’t the
hit the studio had been hoping for. As long as Carrey was delivering belly laughs,
audiences came flocking. But, much like with his turn in the Ben Stiller-directed
dark comedy The Cable Guy, fans weren’t sure how to react to a more dramatic turn from
the actor. The movie only earned a little more than half
of its budget, taking in a measly $34 million. While Universal took the hit for that loss,
the film was celebrated by critics. And, as seen in Netflix’s documentary Jim
& Andy, Carrey went completely method in bringing Kaufman to life, and it worked for him. Box office woes aside, it won Carrey a Golden
Globe and helped pave the way for more serious roles. The Hurt Locker Before they started protecting the world as
Hawkeye and Falcon in the Avengers movies, Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie partnered
up in Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. Released in 2009, this gritty look at America’s
military in Iraq not only made Bigelow the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar,
but it also put a more modern spin on the war movie formula. But as numerous timely war films have discovered,
it’s always a challenge to bring in mass viewership when the subject matter is a very real, and
very recent, armed conflict. When it came to theatrical revenues, The Hurt
Locker ended up being a clear loser in the box office battle, barely making back its
$15 million budget domestically in the year that found Avatar, Harry Potter and the Half
Blood Prince, Up, and Paramount’s Star Trek reboot all vying for audiences’ attention. There’s something to be said for the sheer
mindless joy of escapism that those movies offer, and, unfortunately for Bigelow’s acclaimed
effort, viewers were more inclined to revisit Hogwarts than the Middle East. Hugo Martin Scorsese took a break from his usual
sort of movie in 2011 with this kid-friendly fantasy. The story followed Asa Butterfield’s Hugo
as he unravels a mystery through steam-powered riddles and historical clips of early 20th-century
cinema, and it was breathtaking. During its theatrical run, however, the movie
didn’t even come close to breaking the bank, taking in $181 million worldwide, and barely
earning back a staggering $180 million budget. Hugo still earned a total of 11 Oscar nominations
that year, adding to the director’s long history of critically acclaimed films. So why didn’t Hugo bring in the box office
bucks? One word: competition. The movie arrived just one week after The
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part One, and Disney’s new Muppets movie. Basically, the combination of sparkly vampires
and Kermit the Frog was too much for Hugo to handle. Snowpiercer A dystopian tale about the aftermath of an
environmental disaster that decimated Earth, Snowpiercer revolves around survivors that
are left struggling through a bleak existence on a non-stop train. For writer-director Bong Joon-ho’s film, profits
were less important than telling his story, and it was a creative focus underscored by
the widely publicized struggle between the filmmaker and studio execs at The Weinstein
Company who demanded edits for Snowpiercer’s American release. The director prevailed, but at a cost: the
movie ended up being given an abbreviated limited release, and the studio declined to
put much promotional weight behind its arrival. The theatrical returns, unsurprisingly, were
fairly dismal. Ultimately, despite rave reviews, Snowpiercer
earned just $4.5 million at the box office in the United States. Grosses overseas were far healthier, however,
and the story still isn’t over: if all goes according to plan, a Snowpiercer series starring
Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs will premiere in 2019.

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