Why The Big Lebowski Flopped at the Box Office – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Why The Big Lebowski Flopped at the Box Office

The Coen brothers are widely considered as one of the greatest directing duos in cinema. They have delivered numerous dramatic masterpieces, including the Oscar-winning films Fargo and No Country for Old Men. However, the Coen brothers have also showcased their comedic prowess, and their 1998 classic, The Big Lebowski, is a prime example of this.

The movie revolves around The Dude, played by Jeff Bridges, a laid-back and bowling-obsessed stoner who becomes embroiled in a ridiculous case of mistaken identity. The film boasts an impressive ensemble cast that includes John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and John Turturro, and each of them delivers a comically absurd performance.

Despite being a beloved film today, The Big Lebowski initially failed to perform well at the box office. Made on a budget of $15 million, the movie grossed only $18 million in the United States and $46.7 million worldwide. So, what went wrong? Let’s take a closer look.

One of the possible reasons for the movie’s underwhelming box office performance could be attributed to its trailer. The official trailer on YouTube failed to capture the film’s comedic brilliance and was an incoherent mess that made the movie look downright strange.

The film’s critical response is also crucial for its success, and unfortunately, the critics were not kind to The Big Lebowski. Some critics called the humor “uninspired,” while others criticized the story as a “tired idea.” The Coen brothers’ previous film, Fargo, was a tough act to follow, and the movie’s promotion as the new film “from the Academy Award-winning creators of Fargo” may have set unrealistic expectations.

However, despite its initial commercial failure, The Big Lebowski has achieved cult status in recent years. The film has developed a passionate following, with fans calling themselves “achievers,” a nod to one of the movie’s famous lines. The movie has even inspired a religion called Dudeism, celebrating The Dude’s philosophy and laid-back lifestyle.

In conclusion, The Big Lebowski is now regarded as one of the Coen brothers’ best films, and its characters and quotable lines have become legendary. Despite its initial box office disappointment, the movie has found a place in the hearts of many and has become a pop culture phenomenon.

The Coen brothers are perhaps cinema’s greatest directing duo. They’ve churned out dramatic masterpieces like Oscar-winning films Fargo and No Country for Old Men. But the Coen brothers have also proven themselves to be masters of comedy. And no film encapsulates this more than their 1998 classic, The Big Lebowski. The film follows The Dude (Jeff Bridges), a lackadaisical, bowling stoner, who gets caught up in a ridiculous case of mistaken identity. ​​​​​

Joining Bridges is an all-star ensemble that includes John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and John Turturro. And each one of them is comically absurd.


But what many people don’t realize is thatThe Big Lebowski didn’t start off as a hit and performed poorly at the box office. On a budget of $15 million, it grossed only $18 million in the United States and $46.7 million worldwide. So what happened? How could a movie that’s so beloved now have such underwhelming box office numbers? Let’s take a look and see if we can figure it out.

The Movie Trailers Didn’t Do It Any Justice

John Turturro Still Wants a Big Lebowski Jesus Spinoff

Everyone loves a good movie trailer. It gives us a little taste of the film and hopefully piques our interest, making us turn to our viewing partner and say, “Oh, I want to see that.” Even a great trailer for a bad movie can still get the job done and fill theater seats. But a bad trailer doesn’t do the film any favors. The Big Lebowski might have been a victim of this. Check out the official trailer on YouTube. It fails to capture the film’s comedic brilliance. The trailer is all over the place, an incoherent mess that’s hard to follow and makes the movie look downright strange. John Turturro is hysterical as The Dude’s bowling competitor Jesus, but having him lick a bowling ball in the trailer probably didn’t hook in audiences.

Related: 10 Movies Whose Trailers Were Better Than the Actual Films

Critic Reviews Were Mediocre

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Gramercy Pictures

A film’s critical response is often crucial for its success. Critics’ opinions don’t always align with those of the audience. But they do offer preliminary insight and act as a guide when deciding what movies to see, especially now in the age of streaming. “Is this movie really worth paying to see in theaters, or should I just wait to stream it on my couch?” we often wonder. A glowing review assures us that the film is at least watchable. But a bad review…well, that can sink the ship before it even sets sail.

Critics weren’t crazy about The Big Lebowski. Gene Siskel, who made up one half of the respectable movie critic team Siskel and Ebert (“Two thumbs up!” they’d famously exclaim after watching a great movie), called the humor “uninspired” and said, “Kingpin was a much funnier movie set in the world of bowling.” USA Today said the Dude was “too passive a hero to sustain interest.” The Daily News criticized the story as a “tired idea”, while The Guardian called The Big Lebowski “a bunch of ideas shoveled into a bag and allowed to spill out at random. The film is infuriating.” And Peter Howell from the Toronto Star wrote, “It’s hard to believe that this is the work of a team that won an Oscar last year for the original screenplay of Fargo.” Doesn’t exactly tickle your interest, does it?

Fargo Was a Tough Act to Follow

Gramercy Pictures

Regarded as one of the Coen brothers’ best films, Fargo was a commercial and critical success upon its release. Audiences and critics loved its dark humor, wacky characters, and unique story. The film nabbed two wins from its seven Oscar nominations, claiming Best Original Screenplay for the Coen brothers and Best Actress for lead star Frances McDormand. The Big Lebowski was promoted as the new film “from the Academy Award-winning creators of Fargo.” But that seemed to hurt rather than help it. Audiences were looking for another Fargo-like movie from the Coen brothers: violence, crime, and dark humor. But thanks to The Big Lebowski’s trailer and critical response, audiences thought they just were getting a weird movie about bowling.

Thankfully, It Became a Cult Classic

Gramercy Pictures

The Big Lebowski may have bombed on its release, but in the years since then, it’s experienced a huge surge in popularity. It developed a cult following that included passionate fans who called themselves “achievers,” a nob to one of the film’s many jokes.

Over the years, that following grew as more and more people began to re-discover and enjoy The Dude’s journey. It even gave birth to a religion called Dudeism, which celebrates The Dude’s philosophy and laid back lifestyle. Even some of its worst critics revisited the movie years later and gave it a much better review. It seems like all this movie really needed was some time for people to appreciate it. The Big Lebowski has produced some of cinema’s most legendary characters and tons of quotable lines. It’s now regarded one of the Coen brothers’ best films.

Related: Jeff Bridges Reflects on The Big Lebowski 25 Years Later: ‘I’m So Happy to Be in That Movie’

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