How popular were older 'notorious' films like "Bonnie and Clyde"

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Adam_S, Dec 7, 2002.

  1. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    I did a paper earlier this year comparing Bonnie and Clyde and Natural Born Killers. And that got me wondering, Natural Born Killers did decently (50 million) at the box office, but how well did Bonnie and Clyde perform? Was it well liked? I would think it would be considering it's a much more accessible film than Natural Born Killers. Box Office Mojo doesn't have it listed as an all time box offic champ, but did it do well for it's time, box office wise? Both films recieved pretty similar critical reception about a 60/40 split against the film, mainly for thier 'gratuitous' violence and lack of any real depth (funnily, about a third of the critics declared that since Natural born Killers was edited on the 'high tech' Avid workstation Stone was able to edit so fast that no thought went into any of the edits or montages).

    Any body out there know how this and other films like it may have done, finding older critical reviews is relatively easy, finding old box offic information is not.

    Adam
     
  2. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    According to IMDb, Bonnie and Clyde did $22.8 million US box office (against a budget of $2.5 million). Not bad for that era, when release patterns were far different than they are today -- and ticket prices were lower.

     
  3. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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    I don't know box office, but I can tell you that when I saw it in the theater (in a double-feature with Bullitt), it was pretty popular with me. I don't think I ever recovered. From what I've heard, it took a while to build momentum, but as word started to spread, it became a cultural touchstone.
    Here are a couple of things I found:
    From tvguide.com
    BONNIE AND CLYDE grossed $23 million and became Warner's second best box-office attraction up to that time, after MY FAIR LADY. Despite its controversial nature, the film was nominated for nine Oscars (it only won two).
    =====
    From Barnes & Noble
    With Bonnie and Clyde, producer Warren Beatty and director Arthur Penn served notice to Hollywood that it was time to "get with it," and audiences duly backed them up: The movie hit like a cultural tornado and made a commercial killing (it was Warner Bros.' second biggest box-office hit up to that time). Groundbreaking in its use of violence and narrative stylization -- influenced by the French New Wave in general and Jean-Luc Godard in particular -- the film's most daring gambit was to make Bonnie and Clyde sympathetic, misunderstood antiheroes: a bull's-eye notion for 1967. Beatty plays the impotent, none-too-bright Clyde, who has Robin Hood-type impulses, and Faye Dunaway is at her best as Bonnie. Slowly stultifying in a dusty small town, Bonnie is turned on by the speedy fun and danger promised by Clyde; together their exploits make them folk heroes. There are also memorable performances by Michael J. Pollard, Estelle Parsons (who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress) and Gene Hackman. Burnett Guffey, who shot for Warner Bros. in the 1940s and '50s, won the Best Cinematography Academy Award for his work on the film. - Rachel Saltz
     
  4. Chris_Richard

    Chris_Richard Supporting Actor

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    A book I have has the top money makers for each calendar year.

    For 1968: (dollars are in millions):

    1. The Graduate $39
    2. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner 25.1
    3. Gone With the Wind 23
    4. Bonnie and Clyde 20.3
    5. Valley of the Dolls 20
     
  5. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I remembered seeing an interview with Beatty in which he stated that Warner was very upset after watching the final cut of the film. They were so upset that they hardly promoted it at first. It wasn't until a famous critic who originally panned the film had changed his mind and started singing the praises for Bonnie and Clyde that it started to take off. The critic who I can't remembered his name was based in NYC and worked for one of those magazines like the New Yorker. Anyway, the film's first release was basically overed when the word of mouth started to spread and then Warner released it again to more theaters and the rest is history as we see the final box office results. Personally, as a 12 year old who looked older than my age I was able to sneak in and see this film alone at the Merritt theater. I remembered my reaction to the level of violence as something I never seen before, particularly, the final scene.




    Crawdaddy
     
  6. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    Some excerpts from Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls...
    The production returned from location in the spring of 1967. By June, the cutting was nearly done, and Beatty showed it to Warner at the screening room of the mogul's palatial home on Angelo Drive... ( after the screening ) There was a dead silence. "What the fuck is this?" asked Warner. Silence. "How long was that picture?" Son-in-law Bill Orr said, "Colonel, it was two hours and ten minutes." Replied Warner, "That's the longest two hours and ten minutes I ever spent. It's a three-piss picture.!" Beatty and Penn didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Beatty tried to explain the picture to Warner... Finally, grasping at straws, he said, "You know what, Jack? This is really kind of a homage to the Warner Brothers gangster films of the '30s, you know?" Warner replied, "What the fuck's a homage?"
    A few weeks later, Warner went to New York, where he announced the sale of his stake in the studio to Seven Arts Production. Elliot Hyman, became the new CEO; his son, Kenny became head of production...
    In New York, Bonnie and Clyde opened at the Murray Hill and the Forum on 47th Street and Broadway on August 13, right in the middle of the Summer of Love, a few weeks after riots leveled the ghettos of Detroit and Newark. Bosley Crowther had seen the picture in Montreal, and hated it. His review in the New York Times was devastating. He called it "a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic as the jazz-age cut-ups in Thouroughly Modern Millie."
    Print critics had considerably more influence then than they do now. Movies opened slowly, starting in New York and Los Angeles and moved outward to the hinterlands at a leisurely pace, like ripples on a pond, and therefore their success depended on reviews and word of mouth, as well as print ads... Crowther repeated his attack on Bonnie and Clyde on two successive weekends in the Sunday Entertainment section... The rest of the notices -- especially the influential Time and Newsweek reviews -- were nearly as bad. Joe Morgenstern, writing in Newsweek, call the film "a squalid shoot-'em-up for the moron trade." But the Times began to receive letters from people who had seen the film and liked it. What's more Pauline Kael loved Bonnie and Clyde...
    Kael saw right away that Warners was too hidebound to understand what they had in Bonnie and Clyde. It was a situation tailored to her talents. She weighed in with a nine-thousand-word review that The New Republic, for which she was writing at the time, refused to print. It ended up in the New Yorker and secured her a regular spot there... Rumor had it that she persuaded Morgenstern to see the picture over again. A week later, he published an unprecedented recantation....
    But it didn't matter. Bonnie and Clyde opened in Denton, Texas, on September 13, went wide through the South and Southwest the next day. After two weeks, it was shoved aside by a high profile Seven Arts production, Reflections in a Golden Eye, with Marlon Brando, that Seven Arts had booked into Bonnie and Clyde's theaters before it had purchased Warners....
    Bonnie and Clyde opened in London on September 15, became a hit, more than a hit, a phenomenon. The Bonnie beret was all the rage, hip, happening, but the groundswell that was building for the picture was too late to affect bookings in the U.S.
    Then on December 8, weeks after it closed, Time Magazine put it on the cover-- a silk screen by Robert Rauschenberg, yet-- as the peg and prime example for a story bannered: "The New Cinema: Violence...Sex...Art", by Stefan Kanfer.
    After Time hit the newsstands, Beatty paid a call on Elliot Hyman. He said "we have to rethink this. The movie's been mishandled. I want you to re-release the picture." Hyman rolled his eyes. Nobody re-released pictures... The picture reopened on the day the Academy Award nominations were announced. Bonnie and Clyde got ten.
    Bonnie and Clyde went back into twenty-five theaters, many the identical ones it originally played. The groundswell had been such that the same exhibitors that had had the film rammed down their throats the first time were now clamoring to get it back. On February 21, Warners released the move in 340 theaters. In September, it had grossed $2,600 for a week at one theater in Cleveland; it played the same theater in February and grossed $26,000. "By the time it got back to the theaters, the studio could not get very good terms, because they had screwed the release up so badly", says Beatty. Still, the number were dramatic. By the end of 1967, the picture had netted $2.5 million in rentals. In 1968, when it was re-released, it netted $16.5 million in rentals, then making it one of the top twenty grossing pictures of all time.
    - Walter.
     
  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Walter,
    Yes, it was Morgenstern who was the critic I was thinking about because I remembered in the interview that they touched on the fact how critics in those days usually don't retract a prior bad review with a new positive one. Thanks for the article!




    Crawdaddy
     
  8. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    Sure thing, Robert! Glad you liked my typing exercise. [​IMG]
    - Walter.
     
  9. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Wow Walter, that was like someone opened an encyclopedia on the film. Good job on remembering and having that source of info.

    I didn't realize B&C had such an amazingly interesting beginning.
     
  10. Greg_M

    Greg_M Screenwriter

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    Adam,
    You can't judge a picture's performance based on box-office dollars from films released decades apart. Due to the inflation factors, ticket prices and the number of theaters in which a film is released. During the sixies a film would play at one theater for many weeks or even months, unlike today where it opens in 2000+ theaters and earns it rentals in the first two weeks of release.

    It is better to compare by ranking: the number 1 film that year verses the number one film 30 years later. "Natural Born Killers" didn't due nearly as well as "Bonnie and Clyde" which would more likely be comparable to "Plup Fiction" in ranking and social influence.

    Also check the profit ratio, "Bonnie & Clyde" couldn't have cost more than $2.5 million* to produce and earned about 900% profit while "Natural Born Killer was budgeted at $50 million*. If it earned $50 million at the box-office then it would have just about broken even (not taking into consideration advertising costs which can add many more millions to a film's negative cost.

    *(These numbers are extreme approximations since I don't have the actual figures in front of me.)
     
  11. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Another gauge on the film's popularity at the time is its influence on the popular culture. The movie was even co-opted by DC Comics for the cover of Superboy.

    Everybody was talking about this film at the time. It had a "must-see" buzz about it.

    As you've seen here, the release patterns were different in the 1960s. It was the polar opposite of today's Big Opening Weekend—followed by precipitous drops in box-office take for each subsequent week and its appearance on home video six months later.
     
  12. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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  13. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    Bosley Crowther had seen the picture in Montreal, and hated it. His review in the New York Times was devastating. He called it "a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic as the jazz-age cut-ups in Thouroughly Modern Millie."
    Sounds like something Roger Ebert would write today. Different decade different hack.
    I saw it in college and it endures as one of my all time favorites. Still 1967 is my favorite year for films with The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, Cool Hand Luke, as films that affect me to this day.
    Bonnie and Clyde was just a beautiful film, I knew it won an Oscar for Cinematography, and the perspective was so different from almost all other films before. Virtually all the stars were fresh new faces from Beatty, to Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Wilder, and the supporting cast of Denver Pyle and Dub Taylor were great character actors.
    In many regards it had the feel of being more realistic than other ganster films. How many films before had two characters, Clyde and his brother Buck, wrestling like a couple of kids when they reunite after both get out of prison? These people were all just a bunch of white trash hicks who got involved in something bigger than they could have imagined. Today we would say they had their fifteen minutes of fame, but that level of attention in the 30's attracted the "Laws" from a wide range of states, all intent on hunting down the Barrow gang and killing them like dogs. All the characters had complex motivations and behaviors and while the young audiencies could identify with the frustrations and poverty that the kids faced, there was a sobering outcome to their actions.
    My teenage kids have no interest or understanding of this or many older films. Maybe they are more like we were than I care to admit.
     
  14. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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  15. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    While I think that there are a lot of hacks in the criticism business, I observe that Ebert’s long thoughtful reviews of classic movies would be enough to convince most that he does not fit into the ‘hack’ catagorey. That is just too much work for a hack, as they write quickly, and not well and move on. Just my view.
    The HTF forum has has been insightful for me as Ebert is frequently at the center of arguments of why he did not rate a favorite movie higher, or why he did not share the love for a favorite film. My experience with Ebert started over 20 years with Siskel. Only recently have I gone to his web site to read archives of his past reviews in the Chicago Sun Times. Siskel and Ebert was probablay more about the interchange between the two than about reviews. As I have been reading his written reviews, I am struck by how fast he must right and how he could write better. Just my view.
     
  16. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Ebert is not a hack and such a characterization does little to enhance the level of your opinion.




    Crawdaddy
     
  17. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    Ebert is not a hack and such a characterization does little to enhance the level of your opinion.
    Shall we pick a different term as a characterization then? As I said above, I never game much thought to his reviews till I started to read them on his Chicago Sun Times site. I have been surprised at the criticism he has received on this site for his reviews. Many times I read that "he doesn't get it," or some other such dissatisfaction with the analysis of the movie in his review. Calling him a hack or saying that it not so doesn't make him one or not. The more of his reviews I read the more I wonder if he "does get it." His reviews should be held up to scrutiny and that is for another thread.
     
  18. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I’d be pleased to join in such a discussion.
    For a preview on what I consider to be Ebert ‘getting it’, you might like to read his review of Do the Right Thing. His orgional review can be found
    here. Further comment (last year) by Ebert on this movie can be read here.
    I would further observe that Ebert is about the only critic in an audience at a Cannes panel discussion who appears to get Spike Lee’s movie (or at least he is the one so represented in the Criterion extra of this event).
    As for his writing, I’d give it, on balance about a ‘B’. Not of the caliber of a Jonathan Rosenbaum, but certainly above the level of most movie criticism with which I am familiar.
     
  19. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    Lew, by your post above I think you would have some well thought out comments and analysis. I'll view the movie again after I read his review. I'll put together a compendium of my observations on other movies and why I think Roger either has an agenda when he writes a review, or if he has a blind side and can't see some obvious points.
    This year there was a long discussion on 2001 that was a lot of fun, but also time consuming. Maybe no one will want to debate the musings of an avuncular film critic.
     
  20. Chris_Richard

    Chris_Richard Supporting Actor

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    Ebert is very knowledgeable about film and history and a great writer. I still read his reviews because I find them interesting reads but I find his recent opinions worthless. He will decide to like a movie and ignore or defend it with the same logic he used in reverse to trash a movie he did not like. It is akin to how Ms Kael became later in her work where she blindly defended her favorites.

    Ebert went out of his way to question the historical accuracy of the Hitler statement in Ararat but in The Hurricane he calls the film a parable and this excuses any historical inaccuracies.

    He has an axe to grind against digital video. His review of Sex and Lucia became an anti-DV review.

    He has a tendency to overrate movies with African-American themes (Monster’s Ball, Eve’s Bayou)

    Just a few examples off the top of my head.
     

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