The world of Hollywood often seems like a minefield of failures, controversies and serious debt, but every now and then, fate turns on its head and staying true to your cause can pay dividends. Sometimes the most ridiculous ideas result in the biggest return on investment – it purely comes down to chance as the studios and producers spin the roulette wheel and hope it lands in their favour. Let’s take a look at some of the most unlikely successes in Hollywood!
1) District 9
Released in 2009 and directed by South African director Neill Blomkamp, District 9 is a multi-national production involving Australia, New Zealand, USA, and South Africa. The film also featured Teri Tatchell as writer and the acclaimed Lord of the Rings team Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham as producer.
With a small(ish) budget of $30 million dollars (at least for a sci-fi action film) no-one really knew what District 9 was, and certainly didn’t expect it to be the massive hit it turned out to be. Grossing an incredible $210 million at the box office and four academy award nominations, it was a success that surprised many in Hollywood.
2) The Matrix
Costing a whopping $63 million dollars to make, The Matrix was a huge risk for producer Joel Silver as directors and screenwriters Lan and Lilly Wachowski only had two movies to their name – neither coming close to the scope or scale of The Matrix. The film was released in 1999 and the rest is history, with the film grossing over $460 million dollars as well as spawning two hugely successful sequels, a series and three video games.
3) Little Miss Sunshine
The debut film from director team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine initially only made half a million dollars back on its $8 million dollar budget.
Thankfully for the talented duo, positive reviews from both fans and critics launched it to the top of the box office where it made over $100 million dollars, over 12 times its original budget. Starring Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and The Office US star Steve Carell, the film follows a dysfunctional family on a road trip in their minivan who embark on an 800 mile road trip to a beauty contest their daughter has been picked for.
4) Napoleon Dynamite
Part avant-garde masterpiece, part cult classic, Napoleon Dynamite cost only $400,000 to make, yet managed to walk away from the box office with over one hundred times (yes you read that correctly) it’s budget of $46 million dollars. Lead actor and titular character Jon Heder initially received only $1,000 for his role but renegotiated his contract after the films surprise success. The film follows the eponymous character, a 16-year-old boy who lives with his unemployed older brother Kip and his Grandmother Carlinda.
5) Paranormal Activity
Without a doubt the highest grossing film (compared to its original budget) in the world, Paranormal Activity more than likely should have ended up on the list of low budget B-movie horror films that only true fans of the genre would see. However, something about its simplistic format, found footage approach and relatable characters triggered a reaction from the world and it made an incredible $193 million dollars on its minuscule $15,000-dollar budget.
The studios original plan was to remake a big budget version and only including the original as an option extra on the DVD. After initial screenings, viewers began to walk out of the cinema in fear, and the studio realised they were on to something, deciding to release the original without hesitation.