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The Market Is Quietly Booming

The Market Is Quietly Booming

Alongside the hundreds of original movies being shopped up and down the Croisette during Cannes’ Marché du Film, the market for remakes — local-language adaptations of established hits — is quietly booming. 

We’re not only talking about the international-to-English remakes such as Oscar winner Coda — an adaptation of 2014 French-language dramedy La Famille Bélier — or Chris Rock’s planned U.S. take on Thomas Vinterberg’s 2020 Danish Oscar winner Another Round. International-to-international remakes are, if anything, an even bigger business. Jia Ling’s Chinese blockbuster YOLO, which has grossed $479 million (RMB 3.4 billion), is a remake of the 2014 Japanese film 100 Yen Love. The Italian couples comedy-drama Perfect Strangers from 2016 has been spun off into more than 20 local-language adaptations worldwide.

“There’s a rising trend of adaptations across various languages,” says Marché du Film executive director Guillaume Esmiol, noting that “remakes are injecting a fresh dynamism into the film industry.” 

On Monday, May 20, the Marché will hold a one-day event focused entirely on local-language adaptations, presenting a curated selection of ready-for-remake titles from France, Spain and Italy. 

While there’s nothing new about remaking a hit movie from one country to speak to an audience in a different one — Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959) started out life as French original Fanfare d’amour (1935), and Sergio Leone remade Akira Kurosawa’s samurai epic Yojimbo (1961) as spaghetti Western classic A Fistful of Dollars (1964) — the global remake business has gotten a boost from global streaming services. Platforms in need of original stories to appeal to local audiences find remaking a proven hit can be a shortcut in the development process. 

“Developing an original script can take three to five years, and streamers don’t have the time to wait,” says Danielle Raaphorst of sales outfit Incredible Film, which handles remake rights for mainstream Dutch features, including multicultural comedy De Tatta’s. Belga Films is remaking that film for France, with Guy Laurent (Serial Bad Weddings) working on the script. 

“Development money is really where the risk is,” says Philippe Rousselet, president of Vendôme Pictures, the French group behind La Famille Bélier, “so having something that has been proven to work looks more appealing than starting from scratch.”

Thrillers and crime dramas are among the most popular genres to remake. See Wrath of Man (2021), the Guy Ritchie/Jason Statham remake of the 2004 French action thriller Cash Truck, or Liam Neeson vehicle Retribution (2023), adapted from Dani de la Torre’s 2015 Spanish feature El desconocido. “Basically these films are very mechanical, and if they have great mechanics, they can work everywhere without much adaptation,” says Rousselet. 

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Remaking comedies or straight dramas can be harder to do. “It can be quite difficult to find the right melody, the right music for each country. A good concept is not enough,” Rousselet admits. But funny films, in particular, often work better as remakes than in dubbed or subtitled versions where the jokes get lost in translation. A well-adapted comedy remake adjusts scenes and dialogue to better fit local humor. Vendôme scored a hit in France with Two Is a Family (2016) starring Omar Sy that was adapted from Mexican hit Instructions Not Included (2013) and grossed close to $50 million in Europe. 

“Comedy is so specific to the local culture that adaptations often make more sense than bringing in the originals,” says Raaphorst, who sold Dutch dramedy De Marathon to Germany, where it was remade as local TV movie Werkstatt Helden. “You can also cast local comedy stars who are better known in that country than the actors in the original film.” 

What doesn’t work, says Rousselet, is trying to sell two versions of the same story to the same audience. “The Upside, which was a remake of the French hit Intouchables, had Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston, but it wasn’t even released in France,” he says. “If you’ve had one movie that was successful, the audience won’t come out to see the same story in another language.”

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