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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

6 Answers 6

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

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

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