The film was released on September 21, 2001, ten days after the release of the accompanying soundtrack on September 11, 2001. Before its release, Carey was suddenly hospitalized, citing "extreme exhaustion" and a "physical and emotional breakdown". Due to this, the film and its soundtrack were postponed for three weeks. Glitter was a major commercial failure and critical flop. Reviewers were highly disappointed with the film, and Carey's performance as an actress was considered by many to be amateur. This also caused the film to receive negative commentary along social media sites. Some went on to call it one of the worst films to be released. Glitter opened in 1,996 American theatres, and grossed $2.5 million in its first week. Its worldwide total was about $5.3 million. The soundtrack of the film had some commercial success and it went on to sell three million copies worldwide, considerably less compared with Carey's previous releases.
Circa, 1970s. Lillian Frank is a performer at a nightclub. Lillian tries to rouse the crowd with her torch song, "Lillie's Blues", with her daughter Billie Frank accompanying her on vocals. The plot fails and Lillian is fired. Lilian feels defeated and lights a cigarette, accidentally falls asleep with it and starts a fire, causing the building to be evacuated. Due to her mother's actions, Billie is fostered.
Years later, in 1983, the adult Billie is a club dancer along with her foster-care friends Louise and Roxanne. They meet Timothy Walker, who offers a contract as backup singers and dancers to the singer Sylk and the three are contracted. Later at a nightclub hosted by Julian "Dice" Black, Sylk debuts "All My Life". Dice discovers that Billie is the real singer of the song, as a means to cover up Sylk's absymal singing ability. Impressed, he wishes to produce her but Billie raises concerns about her contract with Timothy and he eventually agrees on the provision that Dice pays him $100,000.
Billie and Dice start working on songs. Ultimately they sign with Guy Richardson of a major record label. With success in their hands, he asks her up to his apartment and they sleep together. Billie's first major single, "Loverboy" is a success. Billie is called to perform at an awards, where she meets singer Rafael. Billie gets a threat from Timothy concerning the debt that Dice failed to pay. Billie, upset about how Dice lied about her contract and his arrest, argues with and leaves him. Following the break-up, Billie collaborates with several songwriters, including Rafael, with whom she makes another hit single, "Want You", and her debut album becomes a massive success.
Billie begins writing a song on her own, due to her emotional pain. Dice also misses Billie, and also begins writing a song. Billie goes to Dice's apartment to reconcile with him but discovers he is not home. Billie discovers that the music he has written, and realizes they wrote the same song: "Never Too Far". Dice, upon seeing her lipstick prints on his music sheet, plans a reconciliation, but is shot dead by Timothy. Before playing at Madison Square Garden, Billie sees the news report of Dice's death, and onstage after, commands the band to stop playing "Loverboy." She tells the audience, "Everybody out there, don't ever take anybody... for granted.", and she then starts to sing "Never Too Far". Afterwords, Billie reads a note Dice had left her, where he tells her that he has found Lillian. Billie's limo takes her to the secluded rural property where she is reunited with her mother once again.
In 1997, American singer Mariah Carey began working on a film and soundtrack project titled All That Glitters. However, during that period, her record company Columbia Records pressured Carey to release a compilation album, in time for the favorable holiday season in November. Consequently, Carey put All That Glitters on hold, and released the compilation in November 1998. Following an additional studio album in 1999, titled Rainbow, the project was delayed. She published some of the material on Rainbow, in which she fully exerted creative control over the album and its sound, and then, Carey completed her contract with Columbia Records. Later, she signed a US$100 million record deal with Virgin Records (EMI Records). Carey was given full conceptual and creative control over the project. She opted to record an album partly mixed with 1980s influenced disco and other similar genres, in order to go hand-in-hand with the film's setting. As the release date grew nearer, the movie and album title were changed from All That Glitters to Glitter. Carey developed the film's concept, which was later expanded by Kate Lanier She said they rewrote a lot of the screenplay on the set and it came from improvisation. Filming sessions were held in New York City and Toronto in late September 2000.
Following commencement for Glitter and the release of the soundtrack's lead single "Loverboy", Carey embarked on a short promotional campaign for the song and its parent album. However, during the campaign, Carey exhibited what was reported as "erratic behavior." On July 17, 2001, Carey was interviewed on the program 106 & Park on the BET network. During the interview, Carey hid her thighs behind large pillows and ranted that her life was "one day that was continuous". Two days later, on July 19, Carey made a surprise appearance on the MTV program TRL. She came out onto the filming stage, pushing an ice cream cart while wearing an oversized shirt. Seemingly anxious and exhilarated, Carey began giving out individual bars of ice cream to fans and guests on the program, while waving to the crowd down below on Times Square, while diverging into a rambling monologue regarding therapy. Carey then walked to Daly's platform and began a striptease, in which she shed her shirt to reveal a tight yellow and green ensemble, leading him to exclaim "Mariah Carey has lost her mind!".
The next day, on July 20, Carey held a record signing for the soundtrack's lead single "Loverboy" at Roosevelt Field shopping mall in Long Island before fans and the media. As a camera crew covered the event, she began rambling on several subjects before finally discussing radio-host Howard Stern, and how his form of humor on his program bothered her greatly. At that point, Carey's publicist Cindi Berger grabbed the microphone from her hand, and asked the news crew to stop filming. Within a few days, Carey posted erratic voice messages on her website which were soon taken down. On July 26, she was hospitalized, citing "extreme exhaustion" and a "physical and emotional breakdown". Following her induction at an un-disclosed hospital in Connecticut, Carey remained hospitalized and under doctor's care for two weeks, followed by an extended absence from the public.
Following Carey's publicized breakdown and hospitalization, Virgin Records and 20th Century Fox delayed the release of both Glitter, as well as its soundtrack of the same name. The announcement was made on August 9, 2001, that both the soundtrack and the film would be postponed three weeks, respectively from August 21 to September 11, and from August 31 to September 21. When asked regarding the motives behind the delay, Nancy Berry, vice chairman of Virgin Music Group Worldwide, addressed Carey's personal and physical condition:
Mariah is looking forward to being able to participate in both her album and movie projects and we are hopeful that this new soundtrack release date will allow her to do so. She has been making great recovery progress, and continues to grow stronger every day. Virgin Music Worldwide continues to give its absolute commitment and support to Mariah on every level.
Carey's first promotional appearance to promote the film itself was on its opening day on Fox Theater, Westwood Village in jeans and a black tank top adorned with an American flag, paying homage to victims of the September 11 attacks. After giving interviews and signing autographs, Carey sat in the center section of the theatre flanked by security guards and handlers, along with audience members who had won tickets through Los Angeles radio station Power 106. During her appearance, Carey said she hoped that Glitter would provide movie-goers an emotional escape during the attacks' aftermath in the country. "But obviously nothing can overshadow the events that have gone on, and I need to stay focused on that", she completed.
Fashions in the film were highlighted by costume designer Joseph G. Aulisi. Showcased were clothing by Soo Luen Tom, Luis Sequeira, Richard Saenz, Renee Fontana, and Michael Warbrock.
The film was released on VHS and DVD on January 15, 2002. A Blu-ray version of the film was released on January 3, 2017 by Mill Creek Entertainment.
Glitter was released in the United States on September 21, 2001. On its opening day, the film grossed an estimated $786,436 in 1,202 theaters. On the first weekend of its release, Glitter was the eleventh highest-grossing film, grossing an estimate of $2,414,596. By the second week, the film dropped 61.1% on tickets sales, ranking at number 15 on the Box Office. It was originally scheduled to open over Labor Day weekend, but the film was pushed back three weeks when Carey was admitted to a hospital for what she stated was extreme exhaustion. Glitter was a commercial failure, grossing a total $4,274,407 in the United States. Worldwide, the film grossed a total of $5,271,666 until its close day, on October 18, 2001.
In an interview in 2010, Carey stated that she believed that the film's failure at the box office was largely due to the soundtrack's release date being September 11, 2001, the same day as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon. She said, "Here's the thing that a lot of people don't know, that movie was released on September 11, 2001 – could there be a worse day for that movie to come out? [...] I don't even know that many people even saw the movie."
Glitter has a rating of 7% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 87 reviews with an average score of 2.8 out of 10. The consensus states "Glitter is a hodgepodge of movie cliches and bad acting that's sure to generate unintentional laughs. Unfortunately, the movie is not bad enough to be good." The film also has a score of 14 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 23 reviews indicating 'overwhelming dislike' Criticism focused on Carey's acting, melodramatic plot, and various anachronisms.
The Village Voice proclaimed, "For her part, Carey seems most concerned about keeping her lips tightly sealed like a kid with braces, and when she tries for an emotion—any emotion—she looks as if she's lost her car keys." Roger Ebert spoke relatively well of Carey's individual performance saying, "Her acting ranges from dutiful flirtatiousness to intense sincerity...." However, he ended with, "and above all, the film is lacking in joy. It never seems like it's fun to be Billie Frank."
Intended as a vehicle to break Mariah Carey as a movie star, it instead became a year-long punch line. Carey might have a five-octave voice, but her performance as a burgeoning singer was strictly one-note and garnered her a Razzie for worst actress. Trotting out every hoary cliché about the music business imaginable, Glitter isn't just one of the worst music-themed films ever — it's one of the worst films ever made, period.
Lawrence Van Gelder of The New York Times said, "Glitter is mostly dross, an unintentionally hilarious compendium of time-tested cinematic clichés that illustrate the chasm between hopeful imitation and successful duplication." Total Film magazine reviewed the film extremely negatively, awarding it just one star and stating, "It can't even scale heights of campy awfulness. This isn't so bad it's good, it's so bad it's actionable...An inept star vehicle that starts out desperately tedious and gets less interesting. Leaves you wishing the Lumiére brothers had said bollocks to cinema and gone down the pub". The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made. Carey herself has also openly dismissed and distanced herself from the film; she stated in 2002 that "[the film] started out as a concept with substance, but it ended up being geared to 10-year-olds." On December 2013, during a visit to the Bravo nightly series Watch What Happens: Live, Carey revealed to host Andy Cohen that she considered Glitter the biggest regret of her career, calling it a "kitsch moment in history...in the history of my life". She told Cohen that the film wreaked havoc on her career; "It was a horrible couple of years (after the film's release) and then I had to get my momentum back for people to let it go", she also added that she wouldn't let anyone around her mention the film in conversation and that it was known as "the G word".
At the 22nd Golden Raspberry Awards, the film received six nominations including Worst Picture and Worst Screen Couple for Carey's cleavage, and one win, for Carey who received the Razzie for Worst Actress.
The accompanying soundtrack, Glitter, became Carey's worst showing on the charts. The first single, "Loverboy", peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, but that was only after Virgin Records spurred sales of the single by dropping the price down to 99 cents. "Never Too Far", the album's second release, was released on October 23, 2001. It failed to impact the main Billboard chart, and achieved weak international charting. Carey was unable to film a music video for the single, as she was still recovering from her breakdown. Instead, a video was created using a scene taken directly from the film, where Billie Frank (played by Carey) sings the song at Madison Square Garden during her first sold-out concert. Frank's performance of the song in the film omits its entire second verse, and the song's development runs in parallel with the film's love story.
The album's third single, "Don't Stop (Funkin' 4 Jamaica)", released on December 10, 2001, mirrored the same weak charting as "Never Too Far", although receiving more rotation on MTV due to its video. Directed by Sanaa Hamri, it features the theme of southern bayous and lifestyles, and presents Carey and Mystikal in "southern style" clothing and hairstyles. Some shots feature three versions of Carey singing into a microphone on the screen at one time. The final single released from Glitter was "Reflections (Care Enough)", which received a limited release in Japan on December 15, 2001. Following its limited promotional push from Virgin, and the absence of a music video, the song failed to make much of an impact. The album itself struggled to reach gold certification, but since its 2001 release has been certified platinum. Virgin Records dropped Carey from the label due to the poor sales of the album and canceled their $100 million contract with her.