In the entertainment industry, a sleeper hit is a title (such as a
film, song or game) that becomes successful gradually, often with
1 In film
2 In music
5 External links
Some sleeper hits in the film industry are strategically marketed for
audiences subtly, such as with sneak previews a couple of weeks prior
to release, without making them feel obliged to see a heavily promoted
film. This alternative form of marketing strategy has been used in
successful films such as
Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Forrest Gump
My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), There's Something About Mary
The Sixth Sense (1999), and War Room (2015).
Screenings for these films are held in an area conducive to the film's
demographic. In the case of Sleepless in Seattle, a romantic comedy,
screenings were held at suburban shopping malls where romantic couples
in their mid 20s to early 30s spent Saturday afternoons before seeing
a new film. In theory, a successful screening leads to word-of-mouth
marketing, as it compels viewers to discuss an interesting, low-key
film with co-workers when they return to work after their weekend.
Easy Rider (1969), which was created on a budget of less than
$400,000, became a sleeper hit by earning $50 million and garnering
attention from younger audiences with its combination of drugs,
violence, motorcycles, counter-culture stance, and rock music.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was considered a flop for the first 6
months of its release until it found popularity in midnight
The 1979 Australian film Mad Max, which sprung from the Ozploitation
movement and helped to popularise the post-apocalyptic dystopia genre,
held the record for the biggest profit-to-cost ratio for several years
until it was broken by
The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project in 1999.
The independent film Halloween, which played over the course of fall
1978 through fall 1979 and relied almost completely on word-of-mouth
as marketing, was also a sleeper hit, having a box-office take of $70
million on a budget of only $325,000. Its success caused other slasher
films to try the same approach, although few fared as well since
horror films heavily rely on opening weekend box-office and quickly
fall from theaters. Other notable examples of horror sleeper-hits to
follow in Halloween's wake include
A Nightmare on Elm Street
A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984,
Scream in 1996,
The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project in 1999, Saw in 2004, and
Paranormal Activity in 2007.
Don Howard's 1952 recording of "Oh Happy Day" was one of the earliest
sleeper hits. Featuring only Howard's baritone vocals and his acoustic
guitar played at an amateur level, it was initially released
regionally and was never expected to become a hit. A massive
groundswell of support from teenagers in Howard's home base of
Cleveland, Ohio led to the song rapidly rising in popularity,
despite music industry scorn; cover versions (including one by
Larry Hooper and the
Lawrence Welk orchestra) were quickly rushed into
production, and by 1953, there were no fewer than four hit recordings
of the same song circulating, including Howard's original.
The Romantics' 1980 single "What I Like About You" was a sleeper hit.
It was a minor hit upon its release and charted at number 49 on the
Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, while not charting at all in
the United Kingdom. It eventually became one of the most popular songs
of the 1980s.
The R&B singer Raphael Saadiq's classic soul-inspired album The
Way I See It was a sleeper hit. Overlooked upon its release in
2008, it ended up charting for 41 weeks on the US Billboard
"Poker Face" and "Just Dance" by the pop singer
Lady Gaga were both
released in 2008 but did not become popular hits until the following
The R&B singer Miguel's 2010 debut album All I Want Is You
performed poorly at first, debuting at number 109 on the Billboard 200
with sales of 11,000 copies, while underpromoted by his record
label. With its singles achieving radio airplay and Miguel touring
in the record's promotion, All I Want Is You became a sleeper
hit and reached 404,000 copies sold by 2012.
The rapper, XXXTentacion's song, "Look At Me!" was released in 2015,
however, it didn't start getting popular until he was in jail in 2017.
"Gone", a song by
Kanye West featuring
Cam'ron and Consequence from
West's 2005 album Late Registration, did not chart for eight years
until 2013 when the song was featured in a viral video about a woman
quitting her job, when it charted on the
Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100 at number
^ a b Berra 2008, p. 68.
^ Ganeri & Bergan 2006, p. 458.
^ Lanford Beard (2014-07-22). "Summer Sleepers: 14 Unexpected Movie
Hits". Entertainment Weekly.
^ Kerswell, J.A. (2012). The slasher movie book. Chicago, Ill.:
Chicago Review Press. ISBN 1556520107.
^ "Mystery Hit -". TIME. February 9, 1953. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
^ Richard N. Smith (February 19, 1953). "No One Likes 'Happy Day'
Except Public". Galveston Daily News.
^ Gimarc 2005, p. 287.
^ Sless-Kitain, Areif (August 6, 2010). "
Raphael Saadiq + Balkan Beat
Box + Javelin at Lollapalooza 2010: Live review". Time Out. Chicago.
Retrieved September 18, 2012.
^ Watson, Margeaux (December 24, 2008). "Raphael Saadiq's 'The Way I
See It': Most overlooked CD of the year". Entertainment Weekly. New
York. Retrieved April 7, 2012.
Raphael Saadiq Album & Song Chart History". Billboard.
Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
Lady Gaga Superstar - Page 7
^ a b c Lipshutz, Jason (September 21, 2012). "Miguel's 'Kaleidoscope
Dream': Inside The R&B Dynamo's Fresh Start". Billboard. Retrieved
October 20, 2012.
^ Rytlewski, Evan (October 9, 2012). "Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream". The
A.V. Club. Chicago. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
^ Graham, Nadine (March 24, 2011). "Q&A: Miguel". Soul Train.
Retrieved October 17, 2012.
Berra, John (2008). Declarations of Independence: American Cinema and
the Partiality of Independent Production. Intellect Books.
Ganeri, Anita; Bergan, Ronald (2006). Eyewitness Companions: Film.
Penguin. ISBN 0756643465.
Gimarc, George (2005). Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide
To Underground Rock, 1970-1982. Hal Leonard Corporation.
"Movies Taking the Longest to Hit #1 at the Box Office" by Box Office
"The Science of the Sleeper" by Th