Little Shop of Horrors Original Ending

Frank Oz‘s 1986 musical cult classic Little Shop of Horrors will be returning to movie theaters for a limited time event, as Fathom Events is hosting Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut, which includes a 23-minute ending cut from the film due to test audience reactions. Find out when you can see the Little Shop of Horrors original ending on the big screen.

Update: Frank Oz e-mailed us with some corrections which will be changed in the following article. We apologize to him for these inaccuracies which painted a picture that the studio forced the filmmakers to make these changes. The truth of the matter is that the changes were mutually agreed upon by the filmmakers and the studio.

In the original ending, the man-eating plant Audrey II succeeds in taking over the city of New York after killing Seymour Krelborn and Audrey. This is the original ending of both the stage musical it’s based on and the original 1960 Roger Corman film. But early test audiences in San Jose hated the ’86 film’s bleak ending. Oz said, “For every musical number, there was applause, they loved it, it was just fantastic…until Rick and Ellen died, and then the theatre became a refrigerator, an ice box. It was awful, and the cards were just awful. You have to have a 55 percent ‘recommend’ to really be released, and we got a 13. It was a complete disaster.”

And the original finale wasn’t cheap, created by the visual effects team using miniatures and tabletop animation. The climax reportedly cost $5 million $1 million to produce, which was a lot for 1986 when movies were typically made for around $15-20 million. Oz has said that the original ending made it “the most expensive film Warner Bros. had done at the time.” Oz insisted on holding another test screening in Los Angeles to see if they would get a different reaction, but the reaction was the same.

The filmmaker later recounted, “I learned a lesson: in a stage play, you kill the leads, and they come out for a bow — in a movie, they don’t come out for a bow, they’re dead. They’re gone, and so the audience lost the people they loved, as opposed to the theater audience where they knew the two people who played Audrey and Seymour were still alive. They loved those people, and they hated us for it.” The test scores were so bad that Oz has said that Warner Bros would probably not release the film theatrically.

Writer Howard Ashman created a happier ending, with James Belushi replacing Paul Dooley (who was unavailable for the re-shoots) as the character of Patrick Martin. The reshoots involved inserting shots of the human Audrey observing from a window into the musical number “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space”. This allows Audrey II to be destroyed in the re-shot happy ending, leaving Seymour, Audrey, and the rest of humanity to survive.

In the theatrical cut of the film, everything seems to work out in the end (Seymour destroys the plant and marries Audrey) despite a final hint of something wicked. Oz and Ashman invented an ominous final shot of a smiling Audrey II bud in Seymour and Audrey’s front yard. Both of them, believed that the original climax was faithful to the story and the characters. The reshot ending scored much better.

Warner Bros. restored the ending in 2012 as part of a DVD release and screened it at New York Film Festival, where fans loved the original ending even more than the one released in the theatrical cut. And now they’ll have the chance to see it on the big screen as it was intended. Fathom is screening the full movie with the alternate ending and a recorded introduction from director Frank Oz in theaters on October 29 and October 31. Tickets go on sale to the general public on September 29, 2017. To purchase, head over to the Fathom Events website.

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