21 Sundance hits that tanked at the box office

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Image Credit: Everett Collection

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The Spitfire Grill (1996)

Originally called Care of the Spitfire Grill, this Audience Award-winning tearjerker starring Marcia Gay Harden and Ellen Burstyn generated so much hype and hopes for mainstream crossover potential that Castle Rock bought it for a then-record (and still shocking) $10 million. Unfortunately for Castle Rock, Spitfire grossed just $12.7 million in theaters, which wasn’t abysmal for an indie back then. But with marketing costs factored in, it’s unlikely the treacly melodrama turned a profit. And it’s not as if anyone’s talking about the cinematic influence of writer-director Lee David Zlotoff. Who? Exactly. —MS

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Image Credit: Everett Collection

What Happened Was … (1994)

1994 might have been the year that Sundance turned Clerks director Kevin Smith into an overnight sensation, but it was character actor Tom Noonan (Manhunter) who left Park City with the biggest endorsement. His feature directorial debut about lonely New Yorkers won the Grand Jury Prize, a screenwriting award, and a distribution deal with Samuel Goldwyn. But what happened in theaters wasn’t so sunny: the flick grossed $327,482. —MS

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Image Credit: Everett Collection

In the Soup (1998)

Steve Buscemi starred in this entertainment-biz satire as an aspiring screenwriter who teams up with a gangster (Seymour Cassel) in a desperate attempt to get his opus produced. Directed by Alexandre Rockwell (who was, back then, married to one of the film’s stars, Jennifer Beals), the movie beat Reservoir DogsEl Mariachi, and Gas Food Lodging for the coveted Grand Jury Prize, and snagged a distribution deal with the now-defunct Triton Pictures. But when it came time to release it later that year, Soup slurped up just $256,000. —MS

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