The Shawshank Redemption: From box office flop to global sensation

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

While Hollywood is the largest film industry in terms of revenue, it is fair to say that not every movie delivers the goods at the box office. 

History is littered with examples of films that flopped, leaving studios and production companies badly out of pocket. 

One of the most surprising box office flops is a movie that has since become widely regarded as a cinematic masterpiece – The Shawshank Redemption. 

Based on Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, the film generated just $16 million during its initial theatrical run. 

However, as highlighted by a recent study by online casino Betway, that has not stopped the movie establishing itself as a modern-day classic. 

That point is perfectly highlighted by the film’s 9.3 rating on review site IMDb, highlighting how beloved it has become with audiences. 

Its status as the most popular film adaptation of all-time is in stark contrast to the reviews given to the Harry Potter series. 

None of the films feature in the top 10 best-rated film adaptations, but three of them are among the top seven most lucrative. 

That appears to suggest that Harry Potter fans are extremely loyal but are left underwhelmed by Hollywood’s attempts to recreate the magic of the books. 

By contrast, The Shawshank Redemption received positive reviews from the outset, but that did not translate into box office revenues. 

Several Oscars nominations helped the film’s cause, and the theatrical re-release helped to push gross receipts to $58.3m. 

Tim Robbins, who plays Andy Dufresne in the film, placed some of the blame for its lack of box office success on the movie’s title. 

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2019, he said: “For years after that film came out, people would come up to me and say, ‘You know, I really liked you in that film Scrimshaw Reduction’ or ‘Shimmy, Shimmy, Shake’ or ‘Shankshaw’ – you know, so many different ways that people got it wrong. 

“But again, the immediate reaction at that time wasn’t as important as whether the film would have life in video and on cable. 

“And, when given a chance, when people actually started to see the movie, it became something that was a movie that people had to watch several times.” 

Robbins’ comment about video and cable goes a long way to explaining why The Shawshank Redemption has become such a massive global hit. 

Warner Bros’ decision to distribute 320,000 VHS copies of the movie to rental stores across the United States was a gamble that paid off massively. 

It went to number one on Billboard’s Top Video Rental charts, and when TNT began airing the movie in 1997 its iconic status was finally cemented. 

Robbins believes that the positive reviews for The Shawshank Redemption undoubtedly have their roots in the public’s empathy for the two central characters – Dufresne and Red (Morgan Freeman) 

“There are very, very few films that are about the relationship, the friendship between two men that doesn’t involve car chases or being charming with the ladies and those kinds of buddy movies,” he added. 

“This one is about a true, deep friendship that lasts. And part of me thinks that people want or need that kind of story to be told.” 

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS