Cult Classics are movies that were initially deemed box-office failures but attracted a devoted group of fans. One of the original cult classics was 1936’s Reefer Madness. Like many cult classics it falls in the category of “so bad it’s worth watching.” Ed Wood’s 1959 Plan 9 From Outer Space is probably the ultimate example of that type.
The Big Kahuna of cult classics is The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It did poorly when first released in 1975 and was almost headed for oblivion when someone got the bright idea to run it at “midnight movie” screenings. With a few months fans began showing up dressed as their favorite characters and talking back to the screen. They also threw rice at the wedding scene.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show still plays in a small number of theaters, making it the longest running theatrical release in movie history at 34 years and counting. Produced for $1,200,000 it has grossed nearly $140,000,000 in box office receipts.
Prior to the video revolution fans of cult classics were at the mercy of the film studios and television programmers. Once VCR’s and later DVD’s became commonplace, many films that bombed in the theaters were resurrected in the home video market.
As I said before, some movies become cult classics because they are egregiously bad. Others are actually pretty good movies that just didn’t catch fire in their theatrical releases. One common factor in most cult classics is that the studios that originally released them didn’t spend very much promoting them. That’s not surprising, since most of them were low-budget productions in the first place.
Here’s a clip from my favorite cult classic:
What’s your favorite?