‘The Canyons’ Adds Up to an Abysmal Box-Office Abyss

Claudine Zap
Movie Talk
August 28, 2013

"The Canyons" has cratered.

The campy psychosexual thriller that was made on a shoestring budget, starring tabloid mainstay Lindsay Lohan (who has been attempting to revamp her stalled career) — has barely made a blip on the box office charts.

With its sizzling (or revolting, depending on which way you look at it) focus on sex, the film also offers some shock value as former porn star James Deen stars opposite Lohan.

"The Canyons" fizzled on arrival, and after nearly a month, it has come up just shy of $50,000 in box office returns. It's easily the biggest flop of Lohan's career, but not by far: Lohan also appeared in the film Jared Leto notably gained weight for, "Chapter 27," which has earned a measly $56,215 to date.

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To put "The Canyons" flop into further perspective, it performed worse than little-known — virtually unknown — titles: a little-seen documentary about bees, "More Than Honey," and a theatrical bomb, "Stuck in Love," starring Kristen Bell and Jennifer Connelly.

To be fair, the film has only played in nine — count 'em on your hands — nine theaters. As the producers of the movie tell it, the box office wasn't part of the plan. Like many indie movies these days, this small-budget film was headed for video on demand (VOD).

"The Canyons" targets "a community of film lovers who live and breathe in the online world," Sundance Selects and IFC president Jonathan Sehring told Variety at the time the film opened. "We believe that the film will do most of its business in the digital realm."

IFC told the Los Angeles Times that the movie, available on platforms such as iTunes, was doing "extremely well" so far. Indeed, while exact figures aren't being reported, "The Canyons" is already profitable due to strong VOD interest.

Called "posttheatrical cinema" by director Paul Schrader ("Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" scribe), "The Canyons" cost well under $1 million to make and was partially crowd-funded by Kickstarter.

The making of the movie created some buzzy press thanks to a New York Times Magazine behind-the-scenes story, and caused some interest — until it tanked, and the New York City movie theater in which it premiered sold only $15,200 worth of tickets.

But even films headed for a smaller, niche crowd, with video-on-demand in mind, still can do moderately well at both the box office and on VOD. Examples are movies like "Bachelorette," which made $5.5 million on VOD but under $500,000 in theaters, and "All Good Things," which cleared $6 million on VOD and made $600,000 million in theaters.

In fact, "Lovelace," another edgy and erotic indie available for VOD , and starring Amanda Seyfried, made $344,000 at the box office.

Watch 'The Canyons' Theatrical Trailer:

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