Every once in a while, a low-budget film makes a break-out financial success.
Here are five astonishing stories that are amazing about successful independent films.
The Film that Bewitched Star Wars
In the summer of 1999, movie theaters were packed with sell-out crowds to see the Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace. The Star Wars film got so much attention that few other films dared to be released during the same time.
However, one film, made with a budget of US$60,000, was released on Wednesday, July 14, 1999. It was shown in one theater and then expanded to 27 theaters for the opening weekend.
The film was the Blair Witch Project.
The movie is about “found” video footage of people in the woods being murdered. There was intentional confusion about whether the video footage was “real.” The film was marketed by using posters of missing persons and a website. Attention about the film went viral on the Internet. Soon, there were lines around the block at the few theatres showing the movie to sold-out crowds. The release expanded to 2,600 theaters.
The producers sold all film rights to get the film distributed but held back a revenue-sharing position if the film grossed over $100 million. Nobody thought the film could earn that much.
It made $140 million domestic gross and $248 million worldwide. The producers are said to have earned $25 to $30 million to settle a lawsuit with the distributor.
Sylvester Stallone was broke. His wife was pregnant, and he just turned down an offer of $100,000 for his screenplay Rocky because he refused to sell it unless the studio agreed to let him play the lead.
Due to Stallone’s stubbornness, the first Rocky was made with him as the star for a tiny budget of $1 million. Released in 1976, it earned $117 million domestic box office gross and a total of $225 million worldwide.
The franchise for Rocky films (nine so far) earned a total of over $1.5 billion.
Friday the 13th
The first film in this franchise was made for $550,000. It was released in 1980 with a brilliant marketing campaign created by legendary Michael Harpster, who would go on to be President of New Line Marketing for more than 20 years. Who can forget the hockey-mask-wearing murderer, Jason Voorhees, in this slasher film? The villain was truly terrifying. The worldwide box office was $60 million.
In total, the 12 films in this franchise made $466 million at the box office, and the merchandise sales were phenomenal.
This film had a modest production budget of $400,000. Released in 2004, it brought a worldwide box office of $46 Million. The film is a quirky, strange, funny, and charming coming-of-age movie. Of the box office, $44.5 million was earned in the USA and only $1.5 million overseas. It might be to a non-US person; this film is just stupid. Still, Americans thought it was hilarious.
This film was released in 2009. It was made for $15,000. It is a voyeuristic look at the security cam footage of a supposedly haunted house. The film scared the bejesus out of movie-goers. And they liked the feeling so much that the film earned $108 million at the domestic box office and $194 million worldwide. Based on its return on investment, these earnings made it the most profitable horror film on record.