It’s hard to believe that many of the movies we love the most were considered failures when they were first released. There are plenty of reasons why the box office doesn’t do well, even with a good movie: its initial budget may have made profitability a real risk, it may have been up against stiff competition, or maybe it was just too cerebral for moviegoers who wanted pure escapism when they went to the theater. The first reason was the downfall of The Wizard of Oz.
Believe it or not, The Wizard of Oz was a box office bomb when it was released in 1939. At the time, it was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's most expensive film ever with giant sets and state-of-the-art special effects. MGM had high expectations for the film, however, audiences weren't keen on making the journey to the Wonderful Land of Oz.
In fact, MGM lost $1.1 million on The Wizard of Oz because of its high production and distribution cost. Despite its middling box office numbers, it garnered four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and won two Oscars for Best Score and Best Original Song for "Over the Rainbow."
Read the reasons behind the box office failures of Fight Club, Blade Runner, The Shawshank Redemption, Citizen Kane, and more at mental_floss.