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Why are movies titled differently in the UK?

For example; The Avengers changed to Avengers Assemble.

Similarly Vertige is called High Lane.

What is the reason why so many movies are retitled for the UK?

I know the reason why the title of The Avengers was changed in the UK, but what is the overall reason for changing movie titles for the UK?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 20 down vote accepted

The UK is a different country from the USA, with a different culture, language, licencing laws, censorship restrictions and different existing properties.

Sometimes films in the US conflict with one of those and get a very different release in the UK.

An example is The Boat That Rocked - in the UK it got quite a clever poster that riffs on the Beatles:

The Boat That Rocked

In the US it was renamed to Pirate Radio and the poster changed to include the love-interest and a boat full of girls (and is a layout mess):

Pirate Radio

Yet another example is The Madness of King George III - it was renamed for the US release because while Brits are used to referring to kings by numbers the Americans aren't, so they didn't want to confuse audiences into thinking it was a sequel.

They can make very odd marketing decisions too: the film Couples Retreat got strange racist posters the UK but not in the US..

Fact is that the UK and US are very different markets, so films get different names.

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I'm picturing my countrymen scratching their heads: "Wait a second, when did The Madness of King George I and II come out?" – Kyralessa Jun 24 '13 at 20:14

A well-known example is the first Harry Potter book and movie.

British author J.K. Rowling titled her first book Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Scholastic later published the book in the U.S., changing the title to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. When Warner Brothers bought the movie rights, it kept the American book title in the U.S.

Rowling claimed that she regretted this change and would have fought it if she had been in a stronger position at the time.

Scholastic thought that a child wouldn't buy a book with the word 'philosopher' in the title. The U.K.-based Harry Potter Teaching Resources site suggests that the book was retitled "...presumably to make it sound more magic orientated rather than philosophy orientated." They also may have doubted American grade-schoolers would be familiar with the mythic philosopher's stone, a mineral substance that could transform base metal into gold.

As a result of the name change, all the scenes in the movie that mention the stone were filmed twice, once with actors saying "sorcerer's" and once with them saying "philosopher's." Same for the book -- "philosopher's" was replaced with "sorcerer's", along with other editing to reflect different British/American spelling differences (e.g. colour vs color). and usage (crumpets vs. muffin). The latter I find curious, since the book/movie actually takes place in England.

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"As a result of the name change, all the scenes in the movie that mention the stone were filmed twice, once with actors saying "sorcerer's" and once with them saying "philosopher's."" - What the? Amazing! – Napoleon Wilson Sep 11 '13 at 11:47
That's a very odd one. The Philosopher's Stone is a mythical object outside of Harry Potter, while a sorcerer's stone isn't anything at all. I would have thought that the Englishness of Harry Potter was part of the appeal for Americans, and they wouldn't want to read an Americanised version any more that I want to read an Anglicised Tom Sawyer. – Keith Feb 4 '14 at 18:30
@Keith I suspect you are correct about Americans, but Scholastic apparently didn’t trust American schoolchildren as much as you and I would be inclined to do. – KRyan Jul 8 at 15:26

The other questions answer very well why some of the reasons why a small minority of English language movies are re-titled for the a particular country.

Looking at your other example, Vertige is a French movie. Vertige does not mean anything particularly in English, even if it is reminiscent of the translation of 'vertigo'. Unfortunately Vertigo is a very well known Hitchcock movie from the 1950s, so although the simple translation must have occurred to the producers, they obviously chose not to use that. The movie was renamed to High Lane for the English language market worldwide, and on other markets:

  • High Lane - Schau nicht nach unten! (Germany)
  • Dead Cliff (Japan - this might be an English translation of the real Japanese title)
  • Gerilim hatti (Turkey)
  • Ypsofovia (Greece)
  • Závrat (Czech Republic)

Source: IMDB

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