I have a theory that a film’s cult popularity is greatly aided by repeated showings on basic cable (look, I didn’t say it was a complicated theory). Much like Pigman’s thesis in PCU, positing the Caine-Hackman theory (that you can find a Michael Caine or Gene Hackman movie playing on cable 24 hours a day), today’s version of the Caine-Hackman Theory (PCU and Shawshank actually came out the same year) would probably have something to do with The Shawshank Redemption.
Now ranked as IMDB’s number one rated movie, Steven King originally sold the film rights to his novella, “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”, for $5,000, to Frank Darabont in the 1980s (a check which King never cashed). Darabont would later adapt the screenplay himself, and turn down millions to let Rob Reiner direct so that he could direct himself. In the years since 1994, 15 different basic cable channels have aired the film, which accounted for 151 hours of airtime last year. No word on how much airtime PCU accounted for.
There’s a new piece in the Wall Street Journal with some of more interesting Shawshank money facts:
[Shawkshank warden actor Bob Gunton] also still gets residual payments—not huge, but steady, close to six figures by the film’s 10th anniversary in 2004. Since then, he has continued to get “a very substantial income” long past the age when residuals usually dry up. “I suspect my daughter, years from now, will still be getting checks,” he said. [...]
…it came out and nobody seemed to notice. Though the film received mostly positive reviews (some complained it was too long and corny), it brought in just $18 million at the box office. “Shawshank’s” participants cite a variety of reasons for the film’s early struggles, including a confusing title with religious connotations, no female roles and competition from the year’s two megahits, “Forrest Gump” ($330 million in domestic box-office) and “Pulp Fiction” ($108 million). [...]
Over the next few years, TNT and other Turner channels ensured that “Shawshank” never again would suffer from a lack of exposure. “Mr. Turner, bless his heart, chose to show the movie every five minutes,” Mr. Darabont said. [...]
“Shawshank’s” last 20 years offer a guided tour through the myriad and evolving revenue streams of the entertainment business. After grossing $28 million at the box office in North America and another $30 million overseas, it went on to the video rental market and by the end had made about $80 million in sales, Warner Bros’ Mr. Baker said. Television licensing fees to date likely have surpassed U.S. box-office receipts, according to a person familiar with the studio’s finances. [...]
As a general rule, studios pocket about half of box-office revenue (less than that overseas), two-thirds of home entertainment sales, and almost all of TV licensing revenue. Based on those margins, “Shawshank” has brought in more than $100 million.
Blah blah blah, stocks, bonds, by low, sell high… all I know is that it’s a good movie. Revenue? It’s just a bullshit, made-up word, so young fellas from the USC film department can wear a shirt and tie. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.