Though it's considered by many as Martin Scorcese's magnum opus, 'Raging Bull' gave the director more than a few sleepless nights. Both the film's violence and the lack of a decent advertising campaign meant that it took some time to recoup its £10.9 million budget. Coupled with decidedly mixed reviews, Scorcese feared that it could have spelled the end for his career, particularly after its predecessor 'New York, New York' lost money. It eventually made £14 million theatrically, not a percentage that would impress today's studio money men.
Vertigo is often cited as being one of the greatest films of all time, but its opening in 1958 was far from celebratory. The box office takings were average and the reviews were, at best, mixed. Fans of Alfred Hitchcock were said to be disappointed at the director's departure from his previous 'romantic thrillers', and Hitchcock himself later blamed the film's failure on the fact that his lead man Jimmy Stewart, who was 50 at the time, looked unconvincingly old to be 25-year-old Kim Novak's love interest. Its acclaim only arrived after it was re-issued in the early 80s.
Ridley Scott's film may have become hugely influential, but the 'Blade Runner' story couldn't have got off to a worse start. It grossed a bitterly disappointing £3.9 million on its opening weekend (considering its $28 million budget), primarily because its release coincided with sci-fi hits 'The Thing', 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan' and 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial' which were also released in the summer of 1982. It also split critics who thought that its flashy special effects stood in place of a discernable plot, with the Los Angeles Times famously dubbing it 'Blade Crawler'.
Orson Welles's 1942 masterpiece Citizen Kane became a cinematic benchmark, but it also enraged the powerful media mogul it based itself upon. William Randolph Hearst used his influence to cut it from a chain of 500 cinemas in the US, and even offered the studio behind it, RKO, £490,000 to destroy the negative. He also banned any mention of it from any of his publications. As such, and despite critical applause, it became a relative failure, losing £91,000 on its first run. It wouldn't receive its proper due until its revival in the 50s. It eventually only made double its budget.
Hal Ashby's bitter-sweet odd couple comedy about the relationship between a young man obsessed with death and a 79-year-old holocaust survivor was never going to be a hit from the outset. And true to form, it flopped at the box office thanks to the peculiarity of the relationship at its core, the subsequent bewilderment of a studio who had no idea how to market it and some scathing reviews. It has since, of course, become a cult hit, initially with the US college crowd and then the world over.
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