20 Years Ago This Week: Home Alone Hits Theaters
On Nov. 16, 1990, the holiday comedy debuted, starting a remarkable 12-week run at No. 1
It may not sound like the stuff of holiday classics, but this tale of a boy whose parents forget to take him on a family vacation was an unexpected blockbuster, topping the box office for an amazing 12 consecutive weeks and finishing its domestic marathon with $285.8 million — still the largest gross for a live-action comedy. Kids repeatedly lined up to cheer on 8-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) as he outwitted two bumbling burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) with an arsenal of traps that would make Wile E. Coyote envious. And parents found plenty to love about the movie too. ”I think people were surprised by how moved they were at the end,” says the film’s director, Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).
At the time, Hollywood rarely greenlit projects centered on actors who couldn’t grow facial hair. Of course, it helped that the relatively low-budget flick was written and produced by John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club). ”John had a real strong insight into the mind of a child,” says Columbus. ”He tapped into the fear of being left alone in a house, as well as the excitement and thrill of it.” But what ultimately transformed the movie into a pop culture phenomenon was Culkin’s endearing, star-making performance. ”Mac had this goofy, relatable quality, and the camera loved him,” says Columbus, who’s currently producing a film version of the popular novel The Help. ”As long as he hadn’t had too much sugar, he was spectacular.”