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cannastop

Why are foreign language movies not breaking out in USA+Canada?

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https://www.boxofficemojo.com/genres/chart/?id=foreign.htm

 

Only one of the top 10, Instructions Not Included, came out in the past 10 years.

 

I do remember seeing a lot of promotions for Indian movies in Central New Jersey, which I suppose a lot of the Indian diaspora went. Maybe that explains the performance of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, which narrowly missed the top 10.

 

I don't really know how to explain this, except by going to each of the top 3 and explaining why they individually played to a wide audience.

 

Also I guess you could make the case that Dragon Ball Super: Broly, which came out this year, is technically a foreign language movie.  But BOM seems to miss that and it's not what most people think of when you say "foreign language film".

Edited by cannastop
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3 minutes ago, baumer said:

When has foreign language films ever really done well in these markets? I just don't think a lot of people want to go to the movies and read subtitles.

Like I said, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Hero. They did nicely in the early 00s in USA+Canada. And there was a variety of movies that did decently in the 90s.

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The same reason why so many markets (especially Europe) are dubbing american movies. The vast majority for example of us germans watch movies in german, because of course we do. The number of people who are willing to watch movies purely with subtitles is way too small to be an economic factor.

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3 minutes ago, Brainbug said:

The same reason why so many markets (especially Europe) are dubbing american movies. The vast majority for example of us germans watch movies in german, because of course we do. The number of people who are willing to watch movies purely with subtitles is way too small to be an economic factor.

This is kind of a German thing, right? The Netherlands doesn't do this.

 

680px-Dubbing_films_in_Europe.png

 

  Dubbing only for children: Otherwise solely subtitles.
  General dubbing: Countries using exclusively a full-cast dubbing.


Even in China there's a subtitle/dub option in theaters a lot of the time. Even for Angry Birds.


The US generally doesn't dub foreign, non animated stuff. Although I did see a dub of Life is Beautiful, possibly to market to children.

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45 minutes ago, baumer said:

I just don't think a lot of people want to go to the movies and read subtitles.

it's funny you say that but lot of people in international markets do exactly that with Hollywood movies.

 

 

I guess after a point you just get used to reading them.. I still watch english movies with subtitles out of convenience, even when I can understand most of the dialogue without.

 

 

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Foreign breakout hits have always been pretty rare. At a guess, CTHD and HERO are statistical anomalies. Perhaps one of the differences is that studios used to occasionally be willing to release foreign films relatively wide, now they’re basically niche — either targeted at arthouse crowds or minority groups in urban areas. 

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42 minutes ago, Plain Old Tele said:

Foreign breakout hits have always been pretty rare. At a guess, CTHD and HERO are statistical anomalies. Perhaps one of the differences is that studios used to occasionally be willing to release foreign films relatively wide, now they’re basically niche — either targeted at arthouse crowds or minority groups in urban areas. 

Well they kind of had something going on in the 90s.

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5 hours ago, baumer said:

When has foreign language films ever really done well in these markets? I just don't think a lot of people want to go to the movies and read subtitles.

 

I have the feeling that before the 80s the Sergio Leone, Fellini, Bergman and other International director doing movie abroad where more widely known by americans, La Dolce Vita was the 6th biggest movie domestic in 1961 and 8 1/2 made good money in 1963, they quite often won Oscar outside the foreign language category as well, directing got common for a while (17 foreign language nominated for best direction in the 60s/70s versus 9 for the 2000s including Clint Eastwood), 7 best script nomination in the 70s, 0 in the 2010s.

 

Maybe Hollywood good better a recruiting foreign talent faster, back in the days maybe the 3 amigos, Denis Villeneuve, Besson, would have had 1 or 2 movie in a foreign language/production having a mini breakout in the USA, now they are either doing very small movie for the modern market or one in English.

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8 minutes ago, Barnack said:

I feel like what is popular on streaming service is extremely similar to a mix of what was the most popular on redbox and torrents before, and foreign movie where not frequently on those top list.

 

By their nature, foreign films will never be as popular as mainstream Hollywood films so it makes sense they're not on the top of those lists. But considering you remove the element of theatrical distribution costs by going to streaming, to me it's just going to make more sense for foreign films to show up there, and therefore represent the future home of those films.

Edited by MrPink
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1 hour ago, cannastop said:

Well they kind of had something going on in the 90s.

I don't know about that, said person who lived through the 90s.

 

Let's make it adj gross to make it fairer:

 

Quote
Rank Title (click to view) Studio Adj. Gross / Theaters Opening / Theaters Date
1 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(Taiwan)
SPC $204,596,900 2,027 $1,108,600 16 12/8/00
2 Life Is Beautiful
(Italy)
Mira. $102,776,900 1,136 $228,500 6 10/23/98
  Like Water for Chocolate
(Mexico)
Mira. $47,151,200 64 $51,400 2 2/19/93
9 Il Postino
(Italy)
Mira. $44,588,300 430 $197,400 10 6/16/95
12 Cinema Paradiso
(Italy)
Mira. $26,170,700 124 $35,300 1 2/2/90
22 Shall We Dance?
(Japan)
Mira. $18,646,400 - n/a - 7/11/97
29 Eat Drink Man Woman
(Taiwan)
Gold. $15,723,100 217 $335,200 14 8/3/94
31 The Wedding Banquet
(Taiwan)
Gold. $15,089,500 113 $293,500 7 8/6/93
33 All About My Mother
(Spain)
SPC $13,998,800 145 $89,300 4 11/5/99
37 Run Lola Run
(Germany)
SPC $12,889,900 172 $219,300 12 6/18/99
39 Cyrano de Bergerac
(France)
OrionC $12,396,800 - n/a - 11/16/90
41 Indochine
(France)
SPC $12,164,900 - n/a - 12/23/92
42 Europa, Europa OrionC $12,103,300 34 $67,300 2 6/28/91
43 Belle Epoque
(Spain)
SPC $11,679,000 - n/a - 2/25/94
49 Farewell My Concubine
(China)
Mira. $11,353,700 3 $151,100 3 10/15/93
50 Kolya
(Czech)
Mira. $11,326,800 128 $874,700 128 1/17/97
52 La Femme Nikita
(France)
Gold. $10,739,200 118 $94,300 2 3/8/91

I cheated a little by including both '90 and '00.  Once you get past Il Postino, it's not that great.

 

But I think there's also something that stands out on that list: Miramax and Sony Picture Classics.  Say what one will about Miramax.  I'll be right there alongside you.  But they were greatly responsible for distribution of foreign films.

 

IMO, the real heyday was the 00's:

 

Quote
Rank Title (click to view) Studio Adj. Gross / Theaters Opening / Theaters Date
1 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(Taiwan)
SPC $204,596,900 2,027 $1,108,600 16 12/8/00
3 Hero
(China)
Mira. $77,927,100 2,175 $26,122,200 2,031 8/27/04
5 Amelie
(France)
Mira. $52,125,800 303 $217,200 3 11/2/01
7 Pan's Labyrinth
(Mexico)
PicH $49,286,000 1,143 $782,200 17 12/29/06
11 Jet Li's Fearless
(China)
Rog. $33,885,500 1,810 $14,567,600 1,806 9/22/06
13 The Motorcycle Diaries
(Argentina)
Focus $24,291,400 272 $231,900 3 9/24/04
14 Kung Fu Hustle
(China)
SPC $24,048,100 2,503 $378,400 7 4/8/05
15 Iron Monkey
(Hong Kong)
Mira. $23,392,400 1,235 $9,574,600 1,225 10/12/01
17 Monsoon Wedding
(India)
USA $21,534,000 254 $106,300 2 2/22/02
18 Y Tu Mama Tambien
(Mexico)
IFC $21,462,200 286 $632,900 40 3/15/02
23 Spirited Away BV $17,675,900 714 $697,600 26 9/20/02
24 Brotherhood of the Wolf
(France)
Uni. $17,461,900 405 $736,900 21 1/11/02
25 Volver
(Spain)
SPC $17,166,300 689 $272,000 5 11/3/06
26 The Protector (2006)
(Thailand)
W/DD $16,567,500 1,541 $6,924,900 1,541 9/8/06
27 Under the Same Moon Wein. $15,799,100 454 $3,475,600 266 3/19/08
30 House of Flying Daggers
(China)
SPC $15,686,800 1,189 $576,700 15 12/3/04
32 The Lives of Others
(Germany)
SPC $14,780,200 259 $279,700 9 2/9/07
34 Talk to Her
(Spain)
SPC $13,925,700 255 $161,900 2 11/22/02
35 La Vie en Rose
(France)
PicH $13,478,500 178 $235,500 8 6/8/07
47 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo MBox $11,578,000 202 $380,200 34 3/19/10
51 City of God
(Brazil)
Mira. $11,171,200 242 $131,900 5 1/17/03
54 The Closet (Le Placard)
(France)
Mira. $10,632,000 145 $495,100 44 6/6/01

Now, I'm cheating again by including both '00 and '10, but I think it shows a stronger decade than the one previously.

 

Even there though, once you get past, oh let's say Pan's Labyrinth, it starts to fall off a cliff.

 

I pretty much agree with Tele on taking a chance at films going somewhat wide.  But I would also add that the difference between a major wide release and a limited release is getting wider and wider with every few passing years (no pun intended).  When CTHD came out, the widest release of that year was MI2  at around 3,650.  This year we're seeing excursions into the 4,700's.

 

===

 

Ultimately though outside of a couple of names, they never really made all that much money.  So when you don't have a studio that's committed to pushing foreign films, you just don't get many of them.

Edited by Porthos
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11 hours ago, cannastop said:

This is kind of a German thing, right? The Netherlands doesn't do this.

 

680px-Dubbing_films_in_Europe.png

 

  Dubbing only for children: Otherwise solely subtitles.
  General dubbing: Countries using exclusively a full-cast dubbing.


Even in China there's a subtitle/dub option in theaters a lot of the time. Even for Angry Birds.


The US generally doesn't dub foreign, non animated stuff. Although I did see a dub of Life is Beautiful, possibly to market to children.

Your map already answer it. I think this has something to do with a "we have always done this kind of mentality," and maybe a little bit with laziness and a lot of older people can't speak english. Like my grandparents can't speak english (one of my grandmas had like 2 or 3 years english but obviously remembers nothing). Most people below the age of 60 can speak english nowadays though.

And Germans seem to not like subtitles, honestly, I find them kinda annoying too especially when we in school would watch a english video with subtitles, that shit was made for school most of the times its not that hard to grasp and I had awful grades in english. 

 

This is just what I saw but I feel like due to the split german school system people can speak english at rather different levels. Which is partly due to the fact how long you have english, if you go to a gymnasium you have 6/7/8/9 (8 or 9 years on gymnasiums and some parts allow you to drop english 2 years before you finish school, where I am from you can drop english after 6 years, but 90% or so kept it for the 2 final years) years of english on that school (+1/2 years on most primary schools). On a Hauptschule you would have had 5 years.

 

And if you can watch something in german most people watch it in german and not english.

 

 

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Answering for Indian films;

They don't care/dream bigger. Indian films don't even try catering to non-diaspora audience, and when you are targetting only limited diaspora audience, numbers will be limited as well.

A film like Dangal, 3 Idiots, PK, Baahubali 2, My Name Is Khan, etc. could have done well with non-diaspora audience, if they had planned it.

 

On other hand, they do try, not intentionally for China, and result is in front of us. There are atleast 10 films over $20mn in China while only one in USA, and that too can be attributed to ridiculous high tickets rate of $30 plus during weekend.

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