But it was big in Japan!
March 24, 2013 6:22 AM   Subscribe

Phantom of the Paradise bombed but was insanely popular in Winnipeg. Flash Gordon did poorly in North America but was a huge hit in the UK. I'm curious: have there been other movies that were relatively unsuccessful but had inexplicable pockets of success?
posted by mcwetboy to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a flop when it first came out, but became a huge hit when it moved to the "Midnight Movie" circuit.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 6:53 AM on March 24, 2013

The film version of Papp's Pirates of Penzance was, understandably, a huge failure, except in exactly one city (Washington DC, if IRC).
posted by thomas j wise at 7:09 AM on March 24, 2013

Jerry Lewis is legendary for being far more popular in France than in the US.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:22 AM on March 24, 2013

Reservoir Dogs was a flop in its initial US release, but it was huge in France.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:56 AM on March 24, 2013

Not a movie, but Depeche Mode was a teen idol group in Germany while simultaneously being associated with the goth subculture in the US.

Sorry, I'm in the middle of a Depeche Mode weekend.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:16 AM on March 24, 2013

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me bombed in the States but was a phenomenal success in Japan.
posted by cazoo at 10:05 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

About half the girls in my US rural south high school owned VHS copies of the 90's BBC miniseries of Pride And Prejudice, starring a young Colin Firth.

I assume plenty of British people watched it when it aired, but in the US among girls my age it was popular on par with boy bands, Titanic, and Dawson's Creek.
posted by Sara C. at 11:01 AM on March 24, 2013

TV tropes calls this (appropriately) Germans love David Hasselhoff.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:38 AM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

OK, not movies, but vaguely on topic.

Norman Wisdom, an English slapstick comedian, was insanely popular in Albania because his were about the only foreign films given a showing.

Benny Hill, another Brit slapstick 'comedian', was quite popular in the US when many Brits thought him dated, sexist and tacky. Although his British reputation has been improved somewhat, his US popularity is still utterly baffling to many Brits (well me, anyway).

As mentioned above, David Hasselhof was popular (as a singer) in Germany, this is also baffling though if you have ever heard German pop music you will not be greatly surprised.

Twin Peaks was a minor cult hit in the UK.

U2 are popular, I have never understood this.
posted by epo at 12:52 PM on March 24, 2013

My friend tells me that Dawson's Creek is still popular and relevant in Spain.

Donald Duck is weirdly prominent in Scandinavia.

Not a movie, but I have heard that Slavoj Zizek is much bigger in anglophone circles than in his native Slovenia.

Akira Kurosawa was (is...?) bigger in the West than in his native Japan.

I seem to recall that the band Bad Religion has outsized popularity in the Basque region.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:34 PM on March 24, 2013

Bill Hicks in the UK.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:35 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Searching for Sugar Man is a beautiful documentary about Rodriguez, a musician who was huge in South Africa without knowing about it. His music's amazing, too. Highly recommended.
posted by tardigrade at 4:01 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Rodriguez was also popular in Aus, though not to the same extent as SA.
posted by pompomtom at 4:59 PM on March 24, 2013

The Australian soaps Neighbours and Home and Away are notoriously far more popular in the UK than they are in Australia. Apparently the old series Prisoner (aka Cell Block H) is huge in the UK and in Scandinavia, though almost nobody under the age of 30 here has ever seen it.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:56 PM on March 24, 2013

Color Me Badd had a long and successful career... in Japan. After their one song in the States (ahem, I Wanna Sex You Up), they pretty much died in America. They released several more albums, and toured frequently in Japan.

While no so unsuccessful, the pop-punk band Zebrahead is, much, much more popular in Japan than in America. Like, absurd levels of fandom.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:34 AM on March 26, 2013

Reginald D Hunter isn't so well known in the US, I believe, but is a TV panel show regular over here. Same with Rich Hall.

The Killers sell out stadia here, but aren't so well known in their home country - they've sold just over the same number of albums there as here, and five million is a huge amount to sell in a small country like this one. (Conversely, Dave Matthews plays the same venues here that people like Jens Lekmann play.) Kings of Leon were also huge here very early on, a while before they were successful in the US.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was hugely popular in the UK due to being repeated at teatime throughout the 90s. I know Will Smith is hardly an unknown in the States, but most people aged 30 or so can recite the theme song word for word. Similar thing with the Australian show Pugwall.

I think Depeche Mode were huge throughout Europe - there is a theme bar dedicated to them in Tallinn. They were definitely huge in their home country, so not sure if it quite counts.

Lilo and Stitch are two of the most prominent Disney characters in Japan.
posted by mippy at 9:48 AM on March 26, 2013

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