“The Shawshank Redemption” is often cited as one of the most beloved movies ever made, but when it opened in movie theaters 25 years ago it was more or less a box office flop. The Frank Darabont-directed drama cost $25 million to produce and only made $28 million at the domestic box office. “Shawshank” would grow in popularity on home video, but it hardly brought as many people to the theater as Columbia Pictures had hoped in fall 1994. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, “Shawshank” star Tim Robbins has a theory about why the film bombed in its initial theatrical release.
“When it came out, and was not well received at the box office, there were various reasons given: Well, it’s the title, no one can remember the title,” Robbins said. “And that makes sense too, because for years after that film came out, people would come up to me and say, ‘You know, I really liked you in that film ‘Scrimshaw Reduction’ or ‘Shimmy, Shimmy, Shake’ or ‘Shankshaw’ — you know, so many different ways that people got it wrong.”
“But again, the immediate reaction at that time wasn’t as important as whether the film would have life in video and on cable,” Robbins added. “And when given a chance, when people actually started to see the movie, it became something that was a movie that people had to watch several times.”
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Why did “Shawshank” evolve into one of the most beloved movies of all-time? Robbins has a theory on that, too. “One reason is that there are very, very few films that are about the relationship, the friendship between two men that doesn’t involve car chases or being charming with the ladies and those kinds of buddy movies,” the actor said. “This one is about a true, deep friendship that lasts. … But in the larger picture, I think it’s a film that is about hope, and about transcending whatever challenges or obstacles are in your life to become a better person.”
Robbins recently screened his new documentary, “45 Seconds of Laughter,” at the New York Film Festival. The actor next appears opposite Mark Ruffalo in Todd Haynes’ corporate thriller “Dark Waters,” in theaters November 22 from Focus Features.