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One Of Jennifer Connelly's Most Important Movies Was A Box Office Flop

In hindsight, it's bonkers to think that this movie exists at all. It's a 101-minute family film featuring David Bowie in astonishingly tight pants, executive produced by George Lucas, written by a member of Monty Python, and directed by Kermit the Frog. If it sounds all over the place, that's only because it sort of is, but that hasn't stopped Labyrinth from becoming a cult sensation in the 34 years since its debut.

"Cult" is the operative word there. Upon its release, Labyrinth was met with a tepid critical response. Roger Ebert's review of the film reads like a freshman philosophy major's existential crisis: "Anything can happen, nothing needs to happen, nothing is as it seems and the rules keep changing," he wrote. "We're wasting our psychic energy by caring. In a completely arbitrary world, what difference does anything make?" And despite arguably paving the way for Jennifer Connelly's career, the film was a bomb at the box office, opening in the US on June 27, 1986 in an abysmal eighth place. Numbers-wise, it spent its inaugural week being beaten out by The Karate Kid Part II, Back to School, Legal Eagles, Ruthless People, Running Scared, Top Gun, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Box Office Mojo reports that Labyrinth came out of the gate with a $3.5 million opening weekend, grossing a total of $12.7 million domestically against a $25 million budget. The international market, now a lifeline for weird and unappreciated concept pieces, was even less forgiving: The movie only pulled in $176,842 overseas.

Labyrinth was a box office disaster

Labyrinth's failure was reportedly an emotional gut punch to the film's director, Jim Henson. In an interview following the Muppet mastermind's death in 1990, his son Brian described the grim toll that the public's response took on him. "(Labyrinth) wasn't received terribly well to start with," he said. "And I think that was the closest I've seen him to turning in on himself and getting quite depressed. It was a rather bad time, and he went to the south of France for a few days to wallow in it."

Connelly's performance, meanwhile, proved to be not just polarizing, but a remarkable opportunity for critics to dunk on a teenager. The more barbed reviews described her as "a bland and minimally talented young actress," and "the wrong person for the right job," and claimed that "when she cries, you can see the onions in her eyes." For whatever it's worth, she would go on to rack up about a dozen prestigious awards for her performances in A Beautiful Mind and Requiem for a Dream in the early 2000s.

As for the film itself, Labyrinth slowly collected a dedicated fan base over the years, not unlike Henson's first feature-length fantasy movie, The Dark Crystal. The universe has expanded into comic books and short stories, and rumors of a Labyrinth sequel have popped up every few years since the turn of the century. In May of 2020, Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson was brought on board to helm a new entry. With decades of fan appreciation behind it, taking a sequel to the top of the box office should be a piece of cake.