[more January IP blogging]
noticed this box of cereal the other day while shopping. My first
thought was they are still squeezing money out of a 50 year old film
and the image of a star who has been dead since 2016
[Next to a box of cereal featuring sixty year old cartoon characters, but that's a topic for another post.]
The idea for adapting the book into a film came about when director Mel Stuart's ten-year-old daughter read the book and asked her father to make a film out of it, with "Uncle Dave" (producer David L. Wolper, who was not related to the Stuarts) producing it. Stuart showed the book to Wolper, who happened to be in the midst of talks with the Quaker Oats Company regarding a vehicle to introduce a new candy bar from its Chicago-based Breaker Confections subsidiary (since renamed the Willy Wonka Candy Company and sold to Nestlé). Wolper persuaded the company, which had no previous experience in the film industry, to buy the rights to the book and finance the picture for the purpose of promoting a new Quaker Oats "Wonka Bar".
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory remained in obscurity in the years immediately following its original release. When the distribution rights lapsed in 1977, Paramount declined to renew, considering it not viable. The rights defaulted back to the Quaker Oats Company, which was no longer involved in the film business, and therefore sold them to Warner Bros. for $500,000. Wolper engineered the rights sale to Warner, where he became a corporate director after selling his production company to it the previous year.
By the 1980s, the film had experienced an increase in popularity due to repeated television broadcasts, and gained cult status with a new audience in home video sales. In 1996, there was a 25th anniversary theatrical re-release which grossed the film a further $21 million. In 2003, Entertainment Weekly ranked it 25th in the "Top 50 Cult Movies" of all time. The tunnel scene during the boat ride has been cited as one of the scariest in a film for children, for its surreal visuals, and was ranked No. 74 on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. The scene has also been interpreted as a psychedelic trip, though director Stuart denied that was his intention.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was released by Paramount Pictures on June 30, 1971. The film was not a big success, eventually earning $4 million worldwide on a budget of $3 million, and was the 24th highest-grossing film of the year in North America.
A few important points here both about the business of entertainment and about why most of the coverage of that business is so bad.