Last Monday, the world lost a brilliant comedic mind in the form of beloved actor, writer, author, and director Gene Wilder. Before succumbing to complications from Alzheimer’s, Wilder gave the countless hours of laughter through his books and films, including Mel Brooks’ hilarious Mary Shelley re-imagining, Young Frankenstein (1974) and the madcap Richard Pryor collaboration, Stir Crazy. Among his best remembered and most beloved works, though, are the raucous box office smash Blazing Saddles and the beloved if darkly tinged childhood classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Fans of these two modern classics will have an opportunity to howl and reminisce when two of Wilder’s most beloved pictures return to the silver screen this weekend.
Deadline reported that, after the comic actor’s passing, theaters around the country were flooded with fan requests for the raucous 1974 western and the 1971 childhood classic. As a result, Willy Wonka will get a reissue at roughly 200 U.S. locations, with Blazing Saddles also riding into about 60 cinemas over the holiday weekend. Theater chain AMC reports that both films will roll in 55 of their locations across the country, with an entry price of $5 per ticket. Check your local listings for start time and availability.
In their day, both films were successful in their own right. Willy Wonka, though, only grossed an estimated $4 million, but has earned a massive following since, inspiring Tim Burton's less-well-received remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2005. It was actually the controversial and raunchy Blazing Saddles which went on to become both Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks’ top-grossing film of all time, earning an estimated $120 million (nearly $550 million in modern terms) at theaters in the mid '70s.
For the uninitiated, Blazing Saddles is a raunchy send up of the western genre, which also addresses serious social issues like racism and government corruption in a knee-slapping fashion. Wonka, on the other hand, is the definitive adaption of Roald Dahl's beloved children’s book. Its morbid, colorful take on the tale, directed by Mel Stuart (who primarily worked as a television director and documentarian) rapidly became a favorite among children and adults, influencing cinema, television, and books for decades after its release.
The short term return of both classic features to the big screen is not only a great tribute to the range and abilities of Wilder, but a terrific opportunity for fans who weren’t fortunate enough (or born) to catch their theatrical debuts. Of course, watching Wilder's comedy magic on screen will also be bittersweet, as cineastes everywhere will both morn his loss and marvel at his larger-than-life performances.
Check your area listings for Blazing Saddles and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory re-release screening times and locations.