A sleeper hit is a term used in the entertainment industry for a film that plays successfully for a long period and becomes a big success, despite having relatively little promotion or lacking a successful opening. It is also used in a similar sense for music releases.
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 sleeper hits such as Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Forrest Gump (1994), My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), The Sixth Sense (1999), and There's Something About Mary (1998).
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, 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 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 in the United States, while not charting at all in the United Kingdom. It ultimately became one of the most popular songs of the 1980s.
In 2008, Raphael Saadiq released his classic soul-inspired album The Way I See It, which became a sleeper hit. Overlooked upon its release, it ended up charting for 41 weeks on the Billboard 200.
In November 2010, Miguel released his debut album All I Want Is You. It initially performed poorly, debuting at number 109 on the Billboard 200 with sales of 11,000 copies, and was underpromoted by his record label. However, it became a sleeper hit, as its singles attained radio airplay and Miguel toured in its promotion, and ultimately sold 404,000 copies.
- Berra 2008, p. 68.
- Ganeri & Bergan 2006, p. 458.
- 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.
- Rytlewski, Evan (October 9, 2012). "Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream". The A.V. Club (Chicago). Retrieved October 19, 2012.
- Lipshutz, Jason (September 21, 2012). "Miguel's 'Kaleidoscope Dream': Inside The R&B Dynamo's Fresh Start". Billboard. Retrieved October 20, 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. ISBN 1841501859.
- 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. ISBN 0879308486.