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Few films of this kind receive more than a limited release and many are never played in major cinemas.As such the marketing, popularity and gross takings for these films are usually markedly less than for typical Hollywood blockbusters.
"The rule for foreign-language films is that if you've done $5 million or better (in United States cinemas), you've had a very nice success; if you do $10 (million) or better (in United States cinemas), you're in blockbuster category," Warner Independent Pictures ex-president Mark Gill said.
On the other hand, English-dubbed foreign films rarely did well in United States box office (except Anime films).
Technically, foreign film does not mean the same as foreign language film, but the inference is that a foreign film is not only foreign in terms of the country of production, but also in terms of the language used.
As such, the use of the term foreign film for films produced in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada or other English-speaking countries would be uncommon within other English-speaking countries.
Films of this type became more common in the early 2000s, as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Amélie, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Y Tu Mama Tambien and Talk to Her enjoyed great successes in United States cinemas and home video sales.
The first foreign and foreign language film to top the North American box office was Hero in August 2004.
The 1982 United States theatrical release of Wolfgang Peterson's Das Boot was the last major release to go out in both original and English-dubbed versions, and the film's original version actually grossed much higher than the English-dubbed version.
When Miramax planned to release the English-dubbed versions of Shaolin Soccer and Hero in the United States cinemas, their English-dubbed versions scored badly in test screenings in the United States, so Miramax finally released the films in United States cinemas with their original language.
The combination of subtitles and minimal exposure adds to the notion that "World Cinema" has an inferred artistic prestige or intelligence, which may discourage less sophisticated viewers.
Additionally, differences in cultural style and tone between foreign and domestic films affects attendance at cinemas and DVD sales.