Next week, The Dark Knight Rises will hit theaters, and holy cow, even we’re tired of talking about how excited we are. But if you can’t wait until next week to get your Christian Bale fix, may we recommend this week’s new DVD release The Flowers of War? What’s that, you haven’t heard of it? Well, no wonder; it only made it to 30 theaters during its very limited release last January, and took in a paltry $311K. (Don’t fear for Bale and director Zhang Yimou — it grossed $93 million in China.) It just goes to show — movie stardom isn’t certain, and even the biggest names in the business can make a picture that comes and goes with nary a ripple. Bale is far from the only one to have a movie sink without a trace in spite of his fame; after the jump, we’ve assembled (in descending order of gross, with the invaluable help of Box Office Mojo) a list of ten big movie stars, and their films that barely made a peep.
Robin Williams, Being Human
TOTAL GROSS: $1.5 million
TOTAL THEATERS: 224
No one was bigger in mid-1994 than Robin Williams, whose vehicle Mrs. Doubtfire (which he also co-produced) was a smash hit the previous fall, capping off a stellar run of acclaimed financial hits that included Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Aladdin, and The Fisher King. But its red-hot star couldn’t get Warner Brothers to support the troubled Being Human, in which writer/director Bill Forsyth (Local Hero, Gregory’s Girl) cast Williams as a multi-era Everyman, in five vignettes set in five historical periods. It sounds like a laugh riot, but Forsyth made the film a deliberately paced, whimsical seriocomic drama, with Williams in mostly-serious mode. Test screenings were disastrous, and Warner Brothers forced Forsyth to cut forty minutes from the film (most of it reportedly from an entirely excised sixth segment), bringing it down to a still-runny 122 minutes. When Warner’s ad campaign for the $40 million picture failed to make an impression, the studio gave it a limited release in 224 theaters, where brutal reviews kept audiences away. Seen today, the film certainly drags (and would, it seems, only have been worst in its original, nearly three hour form), but it has its moments, particularly in the final, modern-day vignette. But back in 1994, it played a couple of weeks, got a quiet VHS release, and vanished (it was only recently made available on DVD, via the on-demand Warner Archive label).