With the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story in digital formats, one has to consider its chances for turning a profit. The movie failed to draw in moviegoers and fans of the new Disney-ran Star Wars universe alike. How will it do in home video formats?
Star Wars: Episode VIII-The Last Jedi was given extremely polarized reviews. You either loved it or you thought it was the worst movie of the Skywalker saga. Yet, box office sales for the U.S. alone topped $620 million; DVD and Blu-ray sales earned well over $53 million. For such a disputed film, it made a lot of money!
Solo was not so lucky. Reviews were not divided. In fact, they were overwhelmingly positive. As a fan of the Expanded Universe (the 20+ years of comics and novels before Disney ownership took over), I went in with a different understanding of Han Solo and his past. I still enjoyed the film. I thought the Kasdans wrote an interesting and fun tale of our favorite smuggler and his Wookiee cohort. Unfortunately, our favorite smuggler didn’t receive the love he was due.
Some have speculated that this was due to The Last Jedi viewers being so divided they were skeptical of another Star Wars movie. And this is entirely possible. Another theory could be that moviegoers had become so used to the December release months of the series that began with The Force Awakens in 2015, the switch back to the original month of May may have thrown them off.
A third theory is that Han just wasn’t as beloved as we all thought. I cannot accept this one.
Only time will tell how Solo will fair off the big screen. For now, I thought we would look back at some of the movies that failed at the box office but made a comeback in the home markets.
The Wizard of Oz
Surprising! I would never have thought that such a beloved movie as this classic flopped at the box office during its release back in 1939. Ticket sales reached just above the cost of production, totaling in at domestic earnings of $3 million dollars. This is the equivalent to $52.8 million in today’s worth. Based on the numbers, this was a total disaster.
It wasn’t until MGM, followed by Warner Bros (current owners of the movie), licensed The Wizard of Oz for television viewing and released it on VHS that it became so beloved among children and adults alike.
Another shocker! This movie was full of wonderful themes, bright colors, and singing orange people who all knew exactly what to sing about on cue (as pointed out in a scene in the Tim Burton remake). This children’s classic did not start that way. It made a weak 4 million dollars ($70.4 million accounting for inflation) on a budget of $3 million, a dismal showing by today’s standards.
Once Warner Bros purchased the movie from Paramount Pictures in 1977, the popularity of the movie took off. TV airings helped establish it as a staple of American cinema.
Ridley Scott has directed movies such as Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, and Legend (which I had forgotten he had directed), but it is his work on Alien that he is may best be known for. His next movie after the 1979 horror film has gained a cult following since its release onto VHS and DVD (it was one of the first movies released on the digital video disc format).
Blade Runner, released by Warner Bros (I’m beginning to see a pattern…) in 1982, only made $33 million worldwide, which would be $85.5 million in today’s market. The setting is of a retrofitted Los Angeles of 2019 (get going, LA, you have less than a year to catch up to the future) and stars Harrison Ford.
Ford trades in his fedora and leather jacket for a dark trench coat as he hunts for escaped replicants (he always dresses to impress). Even a stylish Harrison Ford in his prime wasn’t enough to ward off the powers of Spielberg, as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial proved to be the highest-grossing movie of 1982.
Not only did home video give this movie a place in pop culture, it spawned a recent sequel that took place 30 years after the original. Fitting, considering the span between the release of both films is 30 years.
Big Trouble in Little China
It’s hard to imagine Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall so young, but here they are. It’s also hard to imagine that, in a time of all manner of weird monsters and creatures appearing on-screen, that this one failed so miserably.
For a movie released in 1986 to earn a measly $11 million domestically on a budget of $25 million, it had to have been bad (I don’t even need to do the inflation math on this one…). However, since releasing on VHS, this trucker’s adventure with monsters and demigods saw so much of a cult following that it inspired the premise of the popular video game Mortal Kombat.
This DVD, usually found in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart, is worth so much more than that. Not only was it a great movie back in the day, its cheesiness and campiness are priceless in 2018!
So, Solo has a fighting chance at redemption. Regardless of the reason behind its failure at the box office, the movie’s central character is one that is known throughout the world. The franchise’s staying power may boost it’s hopes of success in the long run.
It will be interesting to see if any of the recent flops of the last few years, including Solo, will earn a place as a classic in American cinema. Will they see a profit from their productions? Will the studios break even with their releases onto home video and streaming; or will these movies remain the misses that they seem to be, remaining on store shelves to gather dust? Only time will tell.