Somehow ‘Austin Powers’ Still Hasn‘t Turned a Profit
Now that Austin Powers has safely moved past its “overexposure through incessant quoting” phase, there’s a lot to love about the movie. The peppy flute theme from Quincy Jones, Mike Myers’ screwloose double-turn as the International Man of Mystery and his pinky-brandishing nemesis, the kitschy ’60s-by-way-of-’90s design, it‘s all a pretty good time. (Not to mention that the tactfully obscured nude scene is a marvel of blocking and composition.) A recent oral history has gotten Myers’ most beloved comic creation back in the public eye, and amidst rumors that a sequel may be in the cards at some indeterminate point in the future, another surprising discovery has been made.
The Hollywood Reporter’s oral history of the 1997 film includes a great many insights, but few as baffling as the revelation that the film is still marked as a fiscal loss. Seth Green (who starred in the film as the villainous Dr. Evil‘s disaffected slacker son Scott) and director Jay Roach had the following exchange:
Green The movie came out and did fine. I think the total take after eight weeks was something like $50 million.
Roach But then DVDs kicked in — they were a new market channel, and Warner Bros. was a pioneer. Mike and I did the commentary and worked on bonus features. They asked us to do a sequel, and I figured the video numbers must have done really well. They hide the video numbers, so you never know. To this day, it's in the red. I don't think that movie is listed as in profit, which is hilarious to me.
All Roach’s quote really means is that his film made most of its money via home-video sales, which makes sense, as it was a word-of-mouth hit more than anything. (And, presumably, Halloween rubber mask sales.) Even so, it‘s amusing to imagine someone at Warner Bros. looking at Austin Powers and thinking [F. Murray Abraham voice] “I don’t see a lot of money here.’