Poor 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World': Critics and audiences have loved the unique way that it grafts comic-book and video-game storytelling onto moviemaking, and it's the kind of movie that's destined to garner great word of mouth (and sell lots of DVDs) in the years to come.

Right now, unfortunately, there aren't enough enthusiastic audiences out there to rescue the movie from being one of the big money-losers of the summer of 2010. But buck up, Mr. Pilgrim -- the history of movies is dotted with films that died in theaters but eventually become popular classics anyway. With any luck, you'll join this list.

Poor 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World': Critics and audiences have loved the unique way that it grafts comic-book and video-game storytelling onto moviemaking, and it's the kind of movie that's destined to garner great word of mouth (and sell lots of DVDs) in the years to come.

Right now, unfortunately, there aren't enough enthusiastic audiences out there to rescue the movie from being one of the big money-losers of the summer of 2010. But buck up, Mr. Pilgrim -- the history of movies is dotted with films that died in theaters but eventually become popular classics anyway. With any luck, you'll join this list.

Fight Club'Fight Club'

Nowadays, people quote this movie constantly, and other films and TV shows make references to it, and we all know the shocking plot twist. (There were even real-life fight clubs inspired by the film.) Alas, in its original 1999 release, all those pictures of a shirtless, scruffy Brad Pitt couldn't get moviegoers interested to find out "Who Is Tyler Durden?" David Fincher's adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel did big biz overseas, but in the U.S., 'Fight Club' rustled up a mere $37 million, meaning it got out-earned by movies with much less staying power. (When's the last time you popped 'Blue Streak' or 'Bicentennial Man' into your DVD player?)



Donnie Darko'Donnie Darko'
It's the movie that launched Jake Gyllenhaal's career, made writer-director Richard Kelly a cult-film icon and embedded "Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion" into the popular vocabulary. And audiences certainly snapped up this quirky teen-angst/time-travel tale on DVD, making it popular enough to spawn a Director's Cut reissue. Impossible as it may seem now, however, 'Donnie Darko' was merely a blip on the landscape during its theatrical run, raking in only $517,735. (The extended reissue didn't do much better, with a total of $753,147.) It was an offbeat movie aimed at teens that played with cinematic language and rewarded multiple viewings -- that sound familiar, 'Scott Pilgrim' fans?



It's a Wonderful Life'It's a Wonderful Life'

Oh yes, your Christmas wouldn't be complete without an annual visit to Bedford Falls and the redemption of hard-working, kind-hearted George Bailey (James Stewart), the assistance of guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers), Zuzu's petals and 'Buffalo Gals' and everything else. But the holiday story that doesn't often get told is that 'Wonderful' was anything but at the box office, laying an egg so huge that it pretty much single-handedly destroyed director Frank Capra's fledgling production company Liberty Films. It wasn't until the film lapsed into the public domain in the 1970s and started wallpapering TV during the month of December that audiences discovered what a gem it was -- which, in a weird way, affirms the movie's good-karma message.



Office Space'Office Space'

It's the movie that taught us all what "flair" is -- and it inspired Swingline to introduce a red stapler -- but even though this satirical workplace comedy from animator Mike Judge went on to garner a huge following on DVD, a crappy marketing campaign sank the film's theatrical chances, winding up with a mere $10.8 million. (Even a Fox studio head later admitted the ads were all wrong.) The weird postscript to all this is that Judge made another sharp, satirical comedy for the same studio -- which made even less money, because Fox basically buried 'Idiocracy' in a handful of cities with no promotion whatsoever before shuttling it off to DVD. (That movie, too, found its following on home video.)



Xanadu'Xanadu'
This roller-disco musical wasn't just a box-office disappointment; hitting theaters around the time that "Disco Sucks" bumper stickers were popping up everywhere, this silly, entertaining fantasy film almost instantly became the butt of jokes in every corner of pop culture. But 'Xanadu' got the last laugh -- the soundtrack of Olivia Newton-John and ELO hits turned into a perennial, the movie became the basis for a popular and critically acclaimed Broadway musical and the film itself is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary with big-screen revival presentations around the country. So put THAT in your legwarmers, hater.



Showgirls'Showgirls'

Another film that found itself roundly mocked upon its original release was Paul Verhoeven's melodramatic tale of Las Vegas topless dancers and their ruthless climb to the top. But while the film temporarily hobbled Elizabeth Berkley's post-'Saved by the Bell' career -- and pretty much put the kibosh on the commercial viability of the NC-17 rating -- this campy and purple-prose-packed hoot became catnip for drag queens and other gay fans of overdone cinema. While the original take was just $20 million (on an alleged budget of $45 million), years and years of midnight screenings and DVD special editions have transformed this ugly duckling into a swan that lays golden eggs.



The Rocky Horror Picture Show'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'

Speaking of midnight movies, perhaps no other film in the history of the medium owes its success to the late-late show as much as this polymorphously perverse musical. Originally released in the fall of 1975, the movie flopped in eight cities and then in a reissued double bill with 'Phantom of the Paradise.' The 'Rocky' phenomenon didn't really take off until the following spring, when it began running at midnight in New York City. In no time, the film became a nationwide sensation, with audience members dressing like the characters, yelling back at the screen, tossing rice and toast at each other and, of course, doing 'The Time Warp' in the aisles. Still technically considered to be in limited release after 35 years, 'Rocky Horror' remains the cult sensation by which all others are measured.



Tron'Tron'
1982 was a big summer for sci-fi/fantasy -- if your movie's title was 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.' That year also saw the release of Disney's ambitious tale of a video-game creator (Jeff Bridges) who winds up trapped in a world of his own design. But while the computer effects were state-of-the-art, the story didn't grab audiences ... at first, anyway. 'Tron' went from punchline to touchstone, as subsequent generations of nerds were entranced and excited by the film's life-inside-the-computer premise. And now this one-time embarrassment has become the launchpad for one of 2010's most anticipated releases, the reboot/sequel 'TRON: Legacy,' which the studio has been marketing to hard-core fanboys for more than a year now.



The Stunt Man'The Stunt Man'

Despite acclaim at film festivals and rapturous reviews (including one from the notoriously tough-to-please Pauline Kael), 'The Stunt Man' never got the backing it needed from 20th Century Fox, which chucked the movie into a few cities and basically ignored it. (As Peter O'Toole later observed on the DVD, "The film wasn't released -- it escaped.") Nonetheless, the film went on to snag a well-deserved Oscar nomination for O'Toole (who plays a dictatorial filmmaker who helps a fugitive hide out by hiring him as a stuntman), and the 1980 film has gone on to be considered an American classic, and one of the best films ever made about moviemaking (and the blurry line between cinema and reality).



Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'
Here's a movie that became a classic around the time the film's original audience (anyone aged 4-8 in 1971) went to college, but the film's dark and twisted sense of humor made audiences of the time feel skittish about touring Wonka's factory. The failure of 'Wonka' was something of a double-whammy -- not only did the movie do disappointing numbers, but Quaker Oats (who financed the movie) lost its shirt on an equally unsuccessful line of candy tie-ins. But there's a sweet ending: The movie is now considered to be one of the great kid films of all time, and there's a new line of Wonka brand deluxe chocolate bars (that was launched, appropriately enough, with a "golden ticket" giveaway).

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