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The question-title is my question, but some examples:

I don't want to discuss the quality of the remake, that differs. But I want to know, why must it always be remade?

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Pertinent in light of the upcoming Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films. – abby hairboat Dec 1 '11 at 22:07
I don't think this question is very answerable, because there are many reasons to do a re-make, and without interviewing everyone involved in every remake ever, we cannot get a definitive answer. And the short answer sounds rather lame: "To make money." – Flimzy Dec 2 '11 at 5:47
I your answer is "To make money", you don't explain why mostly Hollywood want to make the money and not europe or asia. – Mnementh Dec 2 '11 at 12:42
Asian horror remakes alone could fill up this comments page it seems :) – System Down May 24 '12 at 23:05
@Mnementh " you don't explain why mostly Hollywood want to make the money" That one's easy; most big budget movies are made in Hollywood. So, just probabilistically speaking, if you pick a movie beyond a certain production value / advertising budget (of any genre) at random it's more likely to be made in LA. I'm sure there are Asian or European remakes, there are just fewer that you will have heard of. Because advertising budget. – Parthian Shot Sep 28 at 22:07

8 Answers 8

Several of the non-US movies you named are in foreign languages. Although foreign films are often available with English subtitles or voice overs, I'd guess that many people prefer to watch movies where the original dialogue is in their native language. Additionally, the style of foreign movies is different than their Hollywood remakes. I haven't seen the originals of any of your examples, but I do know that the American "The Office" tv show has a very different style of humor from the original British "The Office", for example (I realize that's a sitcom and not a film, but I think it's the same idea).

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That argument isn't very strong, because it means that we should also see french remakes of Hollywood-movies. But that seldom happens. The style in the named movies often does not differ much. They are pretty much the same movies, only with different actors. The Magnificient Seven changes the setting - from Samurais to Cowboys - but aside from that it's the same. – Mnementh Dec 1 '11 at 21:30
I'm not sure it's true that the argument implies that we'd see French (etc) remakes of Hollywood movies - the American film industry is much larger than the film industry in many other countries. According to Wikipedia it grosses more money each year than the film industry in any other country. So, maybe Hollywood produces more movies and is more inclined to do such remakes. – Lauren Dec 1 '11 at 21:35
Hollywood makes the most international successes. If I go to local film-festivals like Berlinale or FantasyFilmFest I concentrate on movies from asia or europe, as the Hollywood-movies surely will start shortly afterwards in the cinemas here in germany. So Hollywood makes the most money with movies, but not the most movies. Bollywood and Hongkong produce around the same number on movies in a year. Europe has no centralized film-making city, but in a whole it may produce also a comparable number of movies. Even Nigeria produces amass of movies. So more money, but not more movies in Hollywood. – Mnementh Dec 1 '11 at 21:41
What! You haven't seen Seven Samurai! – Tshepang Dec 2 '11 at 8:42
I have seen seven samurai and magnificient seven. Both are great movies. – Mnementh Dec 2 '11 at 12:29

After thinking about it and reading the other answers (thank you Lauren and mootinator) I came up with a possible explanation. I don't know if it is correct though.

It can be - as often - about money. It makes not much sense for European/Indian/Chinese filmmakers to produce a remake of a Hollywood-movie (at least directly after the original), as everyone already knows the original movie. Hollywood has excellent distribution-channels and reach most of the world.

That's a completely different situation for non-US-filmmakers. Even in Europe it is hard for foreign European movies to make it to the cinemas. And even if they run in the cinemas, they do only with few copies and without big advertisement. I didn't know about 'Open your eyes' before I heard about 'Vanilla Sky'. I wouldn't know about '[rec]', if I wouldn't go to festivals. That are Spanish movies, and I'm German, so even European movies have a hard time to distribute in other European countries.

So there is a possibility to make money for producers in Hollywood. As they have access to good distribution-channels and have some advertisement-budget they can reach a new big audience and can make money. And it is not very risky, the original movie already showed that it can be successful at the audience it reaches. So, if it is possible to make money, someone will do.

That would explain the relative high number of Hollywood-remakes of foreign movies. And it would mean, that they are actually a good thing, because they bring good ideas to more people.

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You could simplify this answer to laziness and greed .Nobody in Holywood knows what will work, and the risk of a box office failure is large. The industry therefore feels safer investing in already proved ideas as that seems to lower the risk. Successful foreign movies prove two things: the script can be produced and the result sells. They are even better than remakes as few in the major market will know of the originals and complain about the repetition. – matt_black Dec 1 '11 at 23:09
Big shark eats small shark. Hollywood trying to swallow small non Hollywood – pramodc84 Dec 2 '11 at 3:11
Good point. It could also be cyclical - since Hollywood has more money, they have the resources to "jump on" a good foreign film and redo it, whereas foreign film industries don't. – Lauren Dec 2 '11 at 14:29
@pramodc84 +1 for the sentiment "Big shark eats small shark". (Tangentially related: Now that is a movie premise I could get behind. None of this "characters", "plot", or "setting". Just a 90-minute feature of a big shark... eating a small shark.) – Parthian Shot Sep 28 at 22:10

Films with subtitles don't get as many viewers, especially in the UK and US where we expect everyone else to speak English.

People will watch remakes of foreign films, and the studio knows that the film played well in its original market so it's a fairly safe investment.

Take Girl With A Dragon Tattoo - the original was good, but not in English. Its a safe bet that an English version will play in lots of US cinemas.

Movie makers look to reduce risk as much as possible. A film that's already done well in its home market is a safer bet than an unknown property.

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The question contains the answer, in that only successful foreign films are re-made in the US. They are re-made because the industry knows that if a concept is a hit in one major country, the concept has a good chance of succeeding in the US mass market.

American hits can often be exported directly to other countries' mass markets, without having to be re-shot in each country. But that doesn't work in reverse... the American mass market usually just won't bite on foreign films, so foreign hits have to be re-shot for the American market.

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At least part of the reason has to be that the Hollywood folks want a big opening weekend splash. If an excellent non-US movie has been out for awhile, chances are many of the US people who would want to see the movie have already seen it.

I wondered the same thing about ABC remaking Being Erica, a Canadian series into a US version, given that our cultures really aren't different enough to have to rewrite the script to get broad US appeal.

The writer of the above article has this theory:

...ABC likely believed that the original "Being Erica" had already been too widely seen here, particularly among target young female viewers, to simply import on ABC.

I can't think of a compelling reason to disagree with that assessment. A remake will often get viewers of the original wanting to see the remake and viewers of more mainstream US cinema. Whether it's worth the expense of an entirely new production is likely debatable.

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It's about dominance and industry. Hollywood is A) an industry, and B) a US propaganda tool. Neither of them works optimally if there is competition. So it's kind of modus operandi for hollywood to take successful pieces of cinema art and hollywoodise them, so that their public keep watching the same old actors, same old crap.

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I agree with (A) - but I think that (B) is somewhat funny - that may have been the case in the 1940's but not now. – iandotkelly May 25 '12 at 14:07

I suppose another take on this would be that, in most countries, the locals must either be satisfied with only the films produced in their country (e.g. Danes must only consume Danish media) or consume media produced in the lingua franca for the region (which, in most countries, is English. Although of course there are exceptions).

Most countries don't have the resources or economic incentive to produce native-language copies of English-language media, and besides many locals already speak English. So, they don't really need anything to be dubbed or subtitled to understand it.

In the U.S. there is economic incentive and economic means to produce local versions of media popular elsewhere. And it's very unlikely that a given viewer in the U.S. will already speak whatever the original language is (which makes perfect sense; the only two languages a person in the U.S. would ever realistically need are English and, as a distant second, Spanish. Most languages are only spoken by a few million people, and those spoken by populations as large as the U.S. are, for the most part, oceans away), so it's likely they'll need dubbing or subtitles. Which is distracting, and arguably detracts from the film. It's also grating and unfamiliar if you are accustomed to all of your media being in your native tongue.

Short version?

Back in the day the British- more specifically, the English- conquered everyone. And the natively English-speaking country with overwhelmingly the largest media budget is the U.S. Solve for x.

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Not sure how the British conquering everyone has anything to do with the film industry. – Catija Sep 29 at 16:32
@Catija English is the lingua franca in most parts of the world- and one of the national langauges listed in many nations- because of the British empire. The people of India, North America, South Africa, and Hong Kong, for example, didn't just decide to pick up the language for fun. My explanation hinges upon that historical detail. – Parthian Shot Sep 29 at 19:15

It's certainly not like "it must always be remade?".

But indeed, a lot of movies from other countries do get remade in Hollywood. There could be many reasons for this :

1. Better marketing with international stars

Notable example : The Departed, which was a remake of the hong kong thriller Internal Affairs.

Let's just take this one example, do you think Hollywood would have been able to market the same movie so successfully without the big names like Martin Scorcese, Leonardo Di Caprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson ?

I am not saying that all they do is just add the weight of the names. They are certainly great actors/directors, masters of their craft, and when they reenact a good story, they do make it very nice.

2. Technical Improvements

Hollywood definitely has the best infrastructure in terms of technology used in the movie. From sound mixing and lighting to special effects, Hollywood can certainly make use of the best technology in every scene, which might be lacking in the original movies.

Notable example : the TV scene from the movie Ring(2002), compared to the original Ringu(1998). The Ring(2002) delivers the scene much better.

3. English language

English language is the global lingua franca. So releasing a movie in English, definitely increases its prospects of being seen by more people. Of course it can be achieved by dubbing or subtitles, but they are not as effective.

So these are some good reasons, why Hollywood wants to remake these great movies.

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Thanks for your answer. Funny enough you mention The Ring as an example. I have the strong opinion the original Ringu has a much bigger emotional impact than the remake, despite the (undoubted) technical superiority of the remake. But that may be my personal opinion. – Mnementh Sep 29 at 11:12
The Ring reference was just for technical context. The original might be better, overall. But that's still a point why Hollywood remakes the movies. You've already mentioned in ur question that you do not want to discuss overall quality of the remake. Just want to know the reasons behind remake. – Ankit Sep 29 at 11:29

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