MovieChat Forums > Eight Men Out (1988) Discussion > Why the poor box office?

Why the poor box office?


From the time I saw it in 1988, I've wondered why a movie as good as Eight Men Out did so poorly at the box office. My idea is that the public is not keen in general to watch a movie that seriously exposes and criticizes our entertainment culture. That may also be the main reason why another very good movie, Quiz Show, did so poorly at the box office in 1994.

This is mostly a speculation on my part, not the result of a long study of the history of movies in this country. Any comments?

reply

the movie was very cerebral and set in the 1910's, without trying to adapt to 1980's youth culture or look nostalgic (Young Guns, for example). Plus, the marketing for the movie was terrible. Charlie Sheen had only a bit here and there the entire movie

reply

Well I just finally saw this movie for the first time and thought the direction was not that good and it needed a better script and photography. Also, the fact that overall it just wasn't that good a movie didn't help.

reply

Here are three reasons, though others may exist.

First, the movie was a bit complicated, as was the scandal. I KNEW the story beforehand from reading Aisinof's book EIGHT MEN OUT and I was still a bit confused, although a second watching made things more clear. Ebert or Siskel said the same thing, I believe.

Second, the Chicago White Sox are one of baseball's non-glamour teams generally ignored by the national press. The media used to slobber about sturdy Red Sox fans not having a title since 1918, but they rarely (if ever) mentioned that the White Sox had gone title-less even longer (since 1917).

Third, the marketing for this film just wasn't very strong or effective.

reply

I have a film studies textbook that discusses why Eight Men Out did so badly while Field of Dreams (came out around the same time and also about the White Sox scandal) did so well. Basically it said that people like feel-good fantasy and not gritty realism (bummers, the word that the book uses). The book is A Short History of the Movies, by the way.

reply

I think one of the problem is the sheer number of characters, not only do we have the baseballers, but the manager, the two journalists, several hoods and so on.

Eight Men Out is one of the best sports films of all time, even if it has its flaws. The script could be tidied up, the annoying scenes with the children could be got rid of. On the flipside, the acting is nearly always excellent. It doesn't have the cliche feelgood ending of most sports films though.

While baseball is a major sport in North America, Cuba, the Philippines and Japan, it's not much played elsewhere, so I expect a baseball film would have poor pulling power in most of the world. I am not a baseball fan myself, but I appreciate this as a good film, and that's surely a tribute to it. If it had been marketed to me purely on that basis, I would have gone and seen it.

It's also topical. Not only has there been serious questions about the last football world cup, but it seems a bit of jiggery pockery has been going on in the England-Pakistan cricket matches. There is also a major rugby scandal in Europe right now. But being American, most of you will have heard nothing about that. I understand that with the cricket (yawn), but the ignorance about soccer and rugby is inexcusable. LOL!

"Quiz Show" is a good film. However, I myself had the opportunity to go and see it at the cinema, but was put off by the blurb and trailers at the time.

---
It's not "sci-fi", it's SF!

reply

John Sayles ensemble films have always fared poorly at the box office.


Its that man again!!

reply

Probably true, but didn't the Oceans Eleven remake do fairly well?

---
It's not "sci-fi", it's SF!

reply

Heh-heh.

(I think.)

reply

When this movie came out in 1988, I had absolutely no interest in it whatsoever as I HATE baseball. I happened upon it tonight on HDNet without knowing what it was, noticed a couple of the actors were familiar to me, and started watching.

This is a great movie! Now I will actually have to go and read up on the scandal. Still don't know who played in or won the World Series this year.

reply

Agreed. I have no time for baseball, not many people do here, but I have shown it to several people and we all thought it was a good film.

---
It's not "sci-fi", it's SF!

reply

Since you asked, here's why I think:

• Too many characters, making it a bit hard to follow. I agree with others editing suggestions.

• John Cusak and Charlie Sheen, while their acting here was fine, are associated with more fun, even goofy roles, not in a heavy drama. This threw some people for a loop.

• Potentially tense situations were portrayed instead as cerebral and complex. While likely more true to reality, this decreased the drama for most moviegoers.

• Opening scenes lack the normal goal associated with story telling. We mostly know what's going to happen, so the story doesn't start out very compelling, more historical.

• The courtroom resolution isn't something anyone really wants to think about as a resolution for the story. I think moviegoers, and baseball fans, would rather have had some of these guys walk off the field at the end of the movie, even after losing everything.

• As others suggested, the story is downbeat, which turned some viewers off who likely would rather have the film concentrate on just a few characters who resolve inner and outer conflicts and some sort of silver lining (sort of like David Strathairn as Eddie Cicotte here). This of course wasn't completely true to history, but then again, it's the movies...

I love John Sayles, and this film, don't get me wrong. Just pointing out some of the reasons you suggested.

Agree with you on Quiz Show. That really is a superb film, nominated for Best Picture, and definitely deserved it.

reply

> Too many characters, making it a bit hard to follow

That was my big problem. I am not really a fan of baseball to start with so I don't really know which characters are supposed to be the good guys and which are supposed to be the bad.

Plus, since everyone is dressed in the same style of 20s clothing, they all kind of look and act the same. I didn't really know which were the reporters and which were the mobsters and so on.

--
What Would Jesus Do For A Klondike Bar (WWJDFAKB)?

reply

Come to think of it, John Sayles has never made a hugely successful movie, box office speaking. Lone Star and Matewan were outstanding movies, but like this one were just too natural and unglamorous to have made much impression on people. Kris Kristoferson totally shined in Lone Star and was as charasmatic as they came and the warden from Shawshank Redemption turned out to be a spy and traitor in Matewan

reply

It's amazing Charlie Sheen was a huge star by the time this movie came out, but even that didn't help. This was supposed to be D.B. Sweeney's starmaking movie after the failure of the previous movie with Sheen, No Man's Land, but his role as Shoeless Joe was only a bit here and there like Charlie Sheen and he never became famous. John Cusack and a bunch of Sayles regulars had the large roles, so this movie was technically full of unknowns at the time.

The movie was just flat out boring for most people and as for baseball, people want silly stuff like Bull Durham or Major League.

reply

Small independent film, all the actors worked for scale because they wanted to be in it. Obviously Charlie Sheen could have got a big salary for his part, because he was already a star by that time.

Baseball fans (including me) loved it. I was always fascinated by the scandal. And the movie shows why the players did it. Unfortunately, the general public movie goers didn't care about the story.

reply