Next week, Kevin Smith's Mallrats celebrates its 25th anniversary, but back in October 1995 the idea that the film would be celebrated for its silver anniversary was the furthest thing from anyone's mind. The follow up to Smith's critically acclaimed indie debut, 1994's Clerks, Mallrats was to be a bigger budget leap forward for the filmmaker, the natural next step after his "big" break. And then it simply wasn't. The film, despite having the same lauded comedic tone and pop culture notes as Clerks, a cast of popular actors, and, of course, a bigger budget, was savaged by critics and did poorly at the box office.
It's a moment that could have been career-ending for Smith and while he has since gone on to make a number of other successful films and firmly cement his place in popular culture, the idea that Mallrats is not only being celebrated a quarter century on but has become a cult classic is a twist of fate not lost on him -- the film was ahead of its time.
"It was, let me see, we were on about 500 screens and you know Jim Jacks [producer] called us, I've told the story so many times, but Jim Jacks called us the morning after the movie came out," Smith told ComicBook.com. "So, we come out on Friday. Saturday morning, he calls us, he's in Los Angeles, we're in New Jersey, me and Scott Mosier, and he tells us the grosses. You know, this is the phone call we've been waiting for. So, he was like, 'I got the grosses for last night.' And we were like, 'Oh, that's awesome. How did we do?' And he's like, 'we did $400,000.' And I was like, 'on what screen?' And he was like 'on all of the screens. That's it.'"
Smith explained that he quickly realized that the initial performance of Mallrats meant that the film would be fortunate to make a million total and knew that it was over, but even in that moment there was a silver lining -- though it would be years before Smith fully realized it. Mallrats was simply ahead of its time.
"But the one thing that Jim said that like, salved the wound was like he said 'Look, we weren't wrong to make this movie,' which is really what the filmmaker needs to hear because I was so green. I was like, 'Oh my god, do I owe Universal five million dollars?'" he said. "So, Jim goes, 'we weren't wrong to make the movie. We were just early, you watch'. And he was right. Like he predicted it. He called, it over time the movie proved to have longer legs in the years since we made it than the legs it showed when the movie opened."
And those "legs" continue. Not only is Mallrats being celebrated with the release of a limited-edition two-disc Blu-ray set from Arrow Video on Tuesday, October 13th, but the film is at long last getting a sequel: Twilight of the Mallrats. For Smith, though, the real payoff of Mallrats is how it continues to impact people all these years later.
"It's nice when they give you money, but like the real payoff is longevity," he said. "It's being able to talk about this f*cking movie 25 years later and have people give a sh*t as opposed to just me talking about it and people being like 'Sir, this is a Target.'"
You can read more about the Mallrats 25th anniversary edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video here.
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