Big in Albania … countries that gave film flops a second life

The Rock’s Baywatch reboot may be drowning, not waving, in multiplexes around the globe, but there is one territory where cinemagoers apparently can’t get enough of it: Germany. Put it down to the enduring cultural impact of David Hasselhoff, but the country of Angela Merkel is almost single-handedly saving Baywatch from box-office infamy. It’s not the first time a movie has struck an unexpected chord somewhere far from home, as these examples demonstrate.

China loves Warcraft (2016)



The wobbly world of Warcraft. Photograph: Universal

An ambitious $160m (£124m) adaptation of an ailing online video game, Warcraft was conceived as the first instalment of a trilogy set in the magical realm of Azeroth, telling a generation-spanning tale of displaced orcs and angry sorcerers. In some countries it even came billed as Warcraft: The Beginning. Those hubristic plans took a battering when the wannabe epic only managed a puny $50m at the US box office. But the wobbly world of Warcraft was thrown a Baywatch-style life preserver by China, where it earned a thumping $213m and is currently the 12th most successful movie of all time. A fantasy sequel could yet become a reality.

India loves Baby’s Day Out (1994)



Inspired the Malayalam-language James Bond … Baby’s Day Out. Photograph: Allstar/20 Century Fox

After writing and producing the box-office smash Home Alone, John Hughes tried to repeat the formula with Baby’s Day Out. Again, a child puts crotchety criminals through a gauntlet of slapstick accidents but here the hero is a gurgling infant, outwitting his ineffective kidnappers during a crawling tour of Chicago. Baby’s Day Out may have tanked at home in the States – only making back $17m of its $48m budget – but its broad physical comedy exported surprisingly well to India. As well as becoming a hit in its own right, it inspired the quickie Tollywood remake Sisindri in 1995 and a less successful Malayalam-language version four years later (titled, rather confusingly, James Bond).

Albania loves A Stitch In Time (1963) and more



The working man … Jerry Desmonde and Norman Wisdom in A Stitch in Time. Photograph: Rank/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

Mugging master Jerry Lewis found an appreciative audience among French cinephiles. Similarly, Norman Wisdom – or at least his flailing, cloth-capped alter ego Mr Pitkin – became an unexpected icon in Albania. Wisdom’s chirpy comedies were among the few foreign films permitted to be screened under the severe communist regime led by Enver Hoxha until 1985. Hoxha apparently viewed them as parables of the working man (pratfall-prone Pitkin) sabotaging the brutal machinery of capitalism (embodied by Edward Chapman’s Mr Grimsdale) but it seems likely Albanians simply appreciated seeing the unfettered, expressive chaos of Wisdom in full flow.

Mexico loves Fantastic Four (2015)

This grim reboot was set in motion simply to clobber some contractual small print: if 20th Century Fox did not release a Fantastic Four movie within a certain timeframe, the movie rights to the comic characters would return to original owner Marvel. After seeing the result – a dour, thrill-free, bodged-together super-slog – Fox executives may be wondering why they even bothered. Fantastic Four flamed out everywhere except Mexico, where it racked up $10m (its biggest international haul) and outperformed cinematic heavyweights such as Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian and American Sniper.

Canada loves Phantom of the Paradise (1974)



Headtrip … Paul Williams and William Finley in Phantom of the Paradise. Photograph: Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

In recent years, Brian De Palma’s rollicking riff on the Phantom of the Opera has been rediscovered, reassessed and reclassified as a cult classic. Audiences were considerably less hip to De Palma’s vivid headtrip when it was first released: it bellyflopped everywhere except Canada. More specifically, it became a sensation in Winnipeg, where locals embraced the demented rock opera to such an extent that within six months of release, they had lured the film’s evil music mogul Swan (played by actor and songwriter Paul Williams, who was Oscar-nominated for his score) to play two sold-out gigs at the local concert hall. The love affair perhaps peaked with two celebratory Phantompalooza festivals in 2005 and 2006, but the movie remains deeply woven into Winnipeg’s cultural identity.


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