Blockbuster movies usually have a formula. It should have a stellar cast that features a handsome and sympathetic lead star and a voluptuous actress, budget running in the hundreds of millions for the production alone, a marketing campaign that will have a tie-in with some of the world’s most recognizable brands, and all-out action even before the opening credits start to roll.
But does this formula always work? Ishtar! Had Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman at the lead roles, but the film tanked. Waterworld almost drowned despite having Kevin Costner in the movie. John Carter had all the elements required of an action movie, but it nearly flopped and only got saved by the skin of its teeth when the foreign gross figures came in. If you factor in the stress experienced by its producers who threw extraordinary amounts of money for the movie, the very small profit it returns may not be worth it.
It certainly would be nice to have unexpected hits come along from time to time. Napoleon Dynamite made over $45 million despite a meager $500,000 budget. The first Rocky movie required only a million dollars to make, took three days to write, and needed less than a month to shoot, but it went on to become a $225 million blockbuster. It also launched Sylvester Stallone to superstardom and won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year. Of course, it also spawned awful sequels as Stallone milked the movie’s storyline to its last drop, but you get the picture.
Sometimes, a movie just hits you right on the gut, as was the case of Supersize Me, a film that explored the negative effects of being a fast food nation. The producers only spent $65,000 to create the movie, but ended up earning almost $30 million for it.
Or sometimes, pure intelligent marketing techniques can catapult a movie to fame. The Blair Witch Project took advantage of the Internet and of word-of-mouth, and scared the hell out of moviegoers for a seemingly true account of three students who got lost while doing a documentary. Most people ignored the film’s admission of the story being fictional, and instead believed the account to be true. The result, a movie shot on a very limited budget of $500,000 ended up earning more than $200 million.
So what is exactly the most profitable movie ever made? You are probably in for a big, fat surprise.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
No, this is not something that men would usually see, nor college kids would line up for nights before its opening just to have the distinction of being the first to watch the film. But My Big Fat Greek Wedding proved to be adorable enough for women to watch and recommend and adore over and over again as it dealt with a subject matter that has been a favorite for decades…love and the unexpected things that come with it.
Toula is a quirky Greek woman over the age of 30. She meets and falls in love with a non-Greek, Ian, and they carry on a secret relationship. When her father found out, he threw a fit and demanded that his daughter end the relationship. Ian insisted on his love for Toula and proposes marriage, even promising to learn Greek along the way.
The marriage preparations highlight the clash of cultures between Toula’s traditional Greek family and Ian’s more modern upbringing. For Toula’s dad, a quiet dinner means inviting the entire family. Other cultural differences played out as if to test the resolve of both Ian and Toula. In the end, Ian proved his love and got accepted by Toula’s dad, who even gifted the newly wed couple with a house for their own.
A Lean Mean Production
The movie only cost $5 million to make, with John Corbett probably the only known actor in the movie after having appeared in television’s popular Sex and the City series. Nia Vardalos, who appeared in the movie’s lead role, wrote the original screenplay. There was probably more star mileage behind the camera, with two-time Academy Award Best Actor winner Tom Hanks producing the movie along with his wife, Rita Wilson.
A Big Fat Reception
Critics generally praised the movie, with most of them giving out positive reviews for the film’s good-heartedness and its characters lovability. While its box-office receipts started out quite slow, it picked up steadily until it became a hit. The movie never really hit number one in the movie chart, but it still ended up as the fifth highest grossing movie of 2002, and it claims the title of highest earning romantic comedy movie of all time.
Total earnings reached an astounding $369 million, or a return of investment of 7,380%. That is 73.8 times the original $5 million investment plunked down to create the movie. Even if we adjust the figure for inflation and peg the cost at $6 million, that will still yield a return equivalent to 6,150%.
Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery
You know your film has got it made when other shows suddenly appear that would imitate your movie’s title in hope of cashing in on its popularity.
In 2004, The Simpsons aired an episode entitled My Big Fat Geek Wedding. The Fox television network also has had a couple of shows that drew on My Big, Fat Greek Wedding’s popularity. In 2003, they started airing a reality series called My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance. The following year, the Fox network tried again and debuted another show entitled My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss. Sadly, both shows did not earn the success that My Big Fat Greek Wedding enjoyed during its movie run.
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