9 Hugely Successful Movies That Totally Beat The Odds
Ah, the dump months. These notorious months of January and February when the movies in theaters aren't exactly the ones that'll be clamoring for awards, come Oscar season. The ones that the proverbial spaghetti being thrown against the wall, to see what might stick. For years, Hollywood studios have released the films whose success is most uncertain in the gloomy winter months of January and February or the scorching slow downs of August and September. For a variety of reasons, these four months out of the year have become the least desirable in the film industry. For one thing, Awards Season is in full swing early in the year, and much of the entertainment media focuses on the analysis of the likely award winners. Come January, studios have just put a ton of time and money into marketing those November-December awards-baity prestige films and want to see their efforts through.
But studios aren't the only ones who are broke come the beginning of the year. Movie goers who have just spent their life savings on holiday gifts and travel, not to mention on the high-profile moves they did go see, can be reluctant to shell out early in the year. With the kids going back to school, winter storms every weekend, and playoff football leading to the Super Bowl in full swing, big bucks aren't a guarantee this time of year. The same happens to some extent in August and September. Families are generally vacationing after camp ends and readying themselves for the start of school. After what's become multiple months of summer blockbusters, August and September are seen as a little break before the start of September's Toronto International Film Festival, which is viewed as a start to the fall festival season and the beginning of the awards countdown.
Several factors go into deciding what movies will be placed in less than desirable months. Some of them haven't performed well in test screenings, have less prominent stars attached, or just didn't live up to studio expectations. Dump months, critic Una LaMarche says, are "traditionally packed with movies that studios dislike, and want to release with little fanfare." But dump months can't hold a truly good movie down. Every now and then a film breaks through, doing unexpectedly well at the box office, earning rave reviews, or both, challenging expectations and becoming a hit. These are the best of those films.
1. Dirty Dancing, August 1987
It's not just the go-to movie for pre-teen sleepovers, Dirty Dancing was also a huge success upon opening and has survived for decades. Dirty Dancing would eventually make $63 million domestically (that's a lot for 1987) and spawned a sequel franchise. Plus at this point, it's become one of those '80s classics with moves that will forever be reenacted in dance routines.
2. Fatal Attraction, September 1987
The thrilling Fatal Attraction, which tells the frightening tale of a affair gone wrong, did so well at the box office that it stayed in theaters until the following June. It earned six Academy Award nominations, including ones for Best Picture, Best Director, And Best Actress in a Leading role for Glenn Close.
3. The Silence of the Lambs, January 1991
Jonathan Demme's psychological thriller The Silence of the Lambs wasn't only a box office smash, it also went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. So far, it's the only January release to take home the coveted Oscar. The Silence of the Lambs currently ranks number 74 on AFI's list of the 100 Greatest American Films of All Time.
4. The Sixth Sense, August 1999
Heading back to school in the fall of 1999, the twist ending of The Sixth Sense was all anyone could talk about. It still ranks number two in most successful Labor Day weekend openings, and launched director M. Night Shyamalan into the mainstream. His creepy, twist-ending flicks have fizzled out in recent years, but his most recent release, The Visit, is doing pretty well with $97 million worldwide.
5. Cloverfield, January 2009
This found-footage monster movie from J.J. Abrams exceeded box office expectations and has gone on to become a geeky fan favorite. It also apparently serves as the inspiration for the surprise upcoming sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane . I'm guessing after the success of Star Wars Episode VII:The Force Awakens, Abrams will never be regulated to a dump month again.
6. Taken, January 2009
Don't hang up. Liam Neeson's January movies will find you, and they will become hits. This action thriller became so successful that it eventually spawned two sequels and a TV Series. Taken took advantage of the fact that Liam Neeson wasn't really considered a "star" at the time, allowing for a smaller budget. But boy is he ever one now.
7. The Lego Movie, February 2014
No one quite knew what to make of The Lego Movie before it opened. A cartoon about the little Lego men that come along with your building block sets? OK. Little did we know that the kids had been playing Lego video game versions of Batman, Harry Potter and other franchises for years. So not only was The Lego Movie pretty popular, it was actually pretty good! Everything is awesome!
8. Guardians of the Galaxy, August 2014
So while some of the previous reasoning behind dump month placement argues that studios have little faith in whichever film they're placing there, that reasoning surely doesn't apply to Guardians of the Galaxy . Guardians was the first August release by Marvel Studios and went on to become the highest grossing film of 2014, leading some pundits to wonder if the summer blockbuster season was extending into later months. Another big budget comic book movie will try the same route this year; Suicide Squad is set for an August release. Perhaps August dump month is at an end.
9. Fifty Shades of Grey, February 2015
So while no, Fifty Shades of Grey wasn't exactly critically acclaimed, it sure did explode at the box office. Thanks to the rabid fans of the book, this BDSM-romance-drama amalgamation earned over $85 million on opening weekend, with sequels in the works. So far it holds the record for the largest President's Day weekend opening in history. Christian would be proud. Or angry. Who knows with that guy.
Images: Vestron, Paramount (2), Orion, Buena Vista, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Marvel, Universal