"Donnie Darko" may have helped launch the career of Jake Gyllenhaal, but it was a huge flop when it came out in theaters.
The indie film, which cost an estimated $6 million to make, debuted with $110,494 on its opening weekend. It didn't help that the film — which features a plane crash — opened not long after the Sept. 11 attacks. The movie wasn't released internationally for another year.
Theatrically, "Donnie Darko" made $1.2 million at the box office. After its DVD release in 2002, it played as a midnight movie for over two years at New York's Pioneer Theater and became enough of a cult classic to release a "director's cut."
"Heathers," a film about two teens who attempt to murder the members of their high school's popular clique, was pretty provocative for its impressionable teenage audience.
With a budget of $3 million, it barely made half that at the box office.
But thanks to the rising stardom of its protagonist, Winona Ryder, and screenwriter Daniel Waters' brilliant one-liners ("Dear diary, my teen angst bulls--- has a body count"), "Heathers" is a classic today.
Entertainment Weekly gave it a "D," calling it a "dumb and brutal shock show." Rosie O'Donnell hated it so much that she went as far to ruin the film's twist ending on national television.
It wasn't until the DVD release that the film took off (it sold over 6 million copies) allowing a wider audience to catch the hidden details that made it a dark classic.
"Dazed and Confused" (1993)
While "Dazed and Confused" boasts many current-day stars, like Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, and Milla Jovovich, they weren't household names when the film premiered in 1993.
Universal Pictures and Gramercy Pictures weren't sure how to market the stoner coming-of-age flick to a general audience; the film made under $8 million at the box office — only a bit more than its estimated budget of $6.9 million — despite receiving mostly glowing reviews.
Audiences eventually caught on to the fun tale of teen shenanigans, and it's now regarded as a classic '90s film.
1999's "Office Space" may have understood office life, but it failed to understand the box office.
After weak reviews and a poor marketing campaign, the film made only $10.8 million in theaters.
Director Mike Judge chalked it up to the movie being a tough sell.
"'Office Space' isn't like 'American Pie,'" Judge told Entertainment Weekly. "It doesn't have the kind of jokes you put in a 15-second television spot of somebody getting hit on the head with a frying pan. It's sly. And let me tell you, sly is hard to sell."
The film eventually found its niche when the DVD became a top rental. It was later ranked fifth by EW in its list of the greatest comedies of the last 25 years.
People initially weren't dying to see "Clue," a 1985 film based on the board game of the same name.
In keeping with the nature of the game, the theatrical release had three endings; and different theaters randomly played one of the three — something which may not have helped in the film's release. Of its estimated $15 million production budget, "Clue" only made $14.6 million in theaters.
The film didn't receive great reviews. Roger Ebert said fun was in short supply in "Clue." But within the last decade, it has endured as one of the greatest whodunits.
Perhaps one of the most awkward movies of all time, "The Room" did not capture audiences when it hit theaters.
Full of melodramatic lines and nonsensical scenes, the film follows Tommy Wiseau's character (who is also the film's director, writer, and producer) as he sorts through a love triangle between his girlfriend and best friend.
Warner Bros. bought the rights for $500,000 and licensed the film to TV, which allowed a new audience to enjoy the film's zany brilliance. The studio later did a remake of the film starring Johnny Depp in 2005.
"Troll 2" (1990)
Originally produced under the title "Goblins," this B-horror movie was renamed because US film distributors where skeptical about its chances of success. They attempted to market it as a sequel to the 1986 film "Troll," even though the two films have no connection.
Despite their efforts, "Troll 2" earned horrible reviews, and the public now regards it as one of the worst films ever made. It has a 6% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
But its cult followers love it anyway. The 1990 film's bizarre screenwriting and plot, which features a family pursued by vegetarian goblins, eventually plucked it from obscurity.
Although it's now a well-known cult classic, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was only released in eight cities during its first weekend in 1975. Critics gave it positive reviews, but the film was pulled from theaters due to small audiences.
"Rocky Horror" eventually became a cult phenomenon thanks to New York City's Waverly Theater, which held midnight showings starting in 1976. By mid-1978, it was playing at 50 locations nationwide every weekend.
Today, theaters across the world still have interactive screenings of the 1975 film, usually around Halloween. Fox is expected to premiere a TV revamp special in October 2016.
Film critic Roger Ebert noted that when it was first released, the film was "ignored by pretty much everyone, including the future fanatics who would eventually count the hundreds of times they'd seen it."