You are sadly mistaken. "The Thing" was in the top ten box office releases for three weeks.
Kilgore, that is not the mark of a financial or literary success. Being in the Top 10 for 3 weeks is NOTHING.....you should be #1 or #2 for a few weeks AND be in the Top 10 for 2 months. Hell, even "Porky's" was #1 for 7 weeks that year !! LOL
The movie was considered a flop. Nobody understood all the subtleties and the misdirection and confusion about who was or was not "The Thing." Audiences and critics were expecting a remake with a clear simple storyline similar to the 1951 classic.
Lastly, the proof that the film was a dud -- esp. with the critics -- was John Carpenter's reaction. He went into a multi-year depression. That's how upset he was about the critical reaction to "The Thing."
Here are a few of the films that John Carpenter's "The Thing" was up against back in july 1982: Blade Runner
Poltergeist Rocky III Tron Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Raiders of the Lost Ark (re-issued) and last but not least....
E.T., which was completely obliterating box office records at the time.
Yes, that was part of the problem: heavy competition against a bunch of films that now we consider classics. I'm sure that didn't help. Had "The Thing" been released in February or October or some off-peak time, it probably would have done better with the public, though probably not with the critics.
Meanwhile, word of mouth was saying that "The Thing" was a disturbingly violent and gory film, and people stayed away in droves.
Eh....not any more than slasher films which were in vouge back then.....the word of mouth was that you had a confusing movie and a weird ending. The average movie goer -- not a Sci-Fi fan -- would not be able to give it a thumbs up. Certainly the critics didn't (have to check what Siskel & Ebert "At The Movies" said about it.....).
The fate of "The Thing" totally changed when it was released on VHS, and later laserdisc. That's when the word of mouth started to change as people who were warned against seeing the film actually watched it and found it to be a gripping thriller.
True, and people looked at it in a different light. Borderline-bad movies can sometimes improve over time as people reassess. That's what happened I think. Also, the internet and magazines like FANGORIA explained a bit in detail what wasn't clear from the movie itself.
As far as this new remake/reimagining/prequel The Thing goes, it had wide release, and is available on DVD and digital download, as well as High Definition distribution on Blu-ray. It will eventually pass from the public memory, except for those few who will watch it without being familiar with the vastly superior film that it ripped off.
In 20 years, this film will be higher-rated than it is now, though I agree not as highly as the 1982 movie. But again, go back and read the reviews in 1982....they were terrible.