The cold, ultra-styled THX 1138 bombed so hard it almost destroyed Zoetrope before it had started. Lucas and Coppola’s deal with Warner Bros was cancelled (and with it Lucas’ early version of Apocalypse Now) and the boys needed to make good quick or go bust.
“They said ‘This is all junk, you have to pay us back the money you owe us’” remembers Lucas of the Warners deal. “Which is why Francis did Godfather. He was so much in debt he didn’t have any choice.”
Lucas was in a similar boat, and decided to push on with his semi-autobiographical rock ‘n roll movie, American Graffiti. Initially set up at United Artists, the movie switched to Universal when UA became nervous about the cost of the licensed soundtrack. It was worth the risk – the film went on to make $55 million on its initial run.