By Thomas Myler
When Home Alone opened in cinemas in November 1990, it received mixed reviews from the critics, with some pointing out that it contained ‘excessive violence’, even if it was done in a comical vein. But it came a massive hit and is now considered a perennial favourite, regarded as one of the best Christmas films of all.
It spawned a successful film franchise that started with the 1992 sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, which is the only Home Alone sequel to have most of the original cast reprising their roles. Our own Brenda Fricker had a strong role in that one as the kind ‘bird lady’ in Central Park.
Written and produced by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus, it starred Macauley Culkin as an eight-year-old boy who must defend his home from two burglars after his family mistakenly leaves him behind on their Christmas vacation in Paris.
It was originally meant to be a production from Warner Bros., with a promised budget of $10 million, considerably less than most feature film production budgets of that era. But when Hughes worked out the logistics, he said it could well exceed that figure.
Preliminary plans went head, with costs now estimated at around $14.7 million. Warner executives responded with a memo that $10 million was been their top figure, not a cent more. Hughes disagreed and Warners promptly shut down production.
Undeterred, Hughes took his idea to Twentieth Century Fox, and they gave him to go ahead, and with an $18 million budget.
In the end, Home Alone made a total gross of $476.7 million, becoming the highest-grossing live-action comedy in cinema history, a record that lasted 21 years.
It received two Golden Globe nominations – Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy and Best Actor in a Motion Picture for Culkin, as well as two Oscar nominations, Best Original Score, composed by John Williams, and Best Song, Somewhere in My Memory, written by Leslie Bricusse and John Williams.
One top Warner executive was said to have remarked ruefully in later years, “That was one big movie we really missed out on!”