What Transformed “The Shawshank Redemption” Into A Beloved Classic?
You would never know it today – or from the early critical buzz that surrounded director Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption – but the film originally did not even come close to earning out at the box office.
Everyone who read the script loved it – lead actor Tim Robbins called it the “best script he’d ever read” – so things were set to take off from the very beginning.
There are a few theories as to why audiences weren’t immediately as interested as everyone else.
The first is that the adaptations of King’s work were (and continue to be) inconsistent in quality. Another is that prison movies weren’t generating a ton of excitement in general, at the time.
Most believe the single biggest contributing factor to the box-office flop, though, was the fact that Pulp Fiction released for the first time on the same weekend.
Pulp Fiction had stunned audiences and critics at Cannes, and the film itself, combined with Tarantino’s new-guy charm and John Travolta’s comeback meant most people didn’t think twice when they decided what to go see in the theater.
Here’s the reality, though. The film cost $25 million to make, and it actually made over $28 million at the domestic box office.
Also, in 1995, Shawshank was nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score.
Now the movie that people thought had been overlooked was in the spotlight. And although the film didn’t end up winning any Academy Awards, the idea that this was a film that people needed to rediscover.
A few years later, between the booming rental market and TNT putting it in a regular cable rotation, more and more people were starting to realize they’d missed out, and the legend of how great the movie was grew and grew.
Shawshank’s little story of hope and persistence, even in the worst of times, has now become a success in every sense of the word – and for most of us, a household viewing staple.
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