More sophisticated demand is typically seen as an enabler of economic upgrading. This study questions this linearity and extends demand theory through a case analysis of the film industry in two developing countries. When unsophisticated local demand results in well-matched supply- and demand-side elements, benefits do accrue. Low exposure to technically superior products in Nigeria allowed a fully fledged film value chain to develop, as consumers were willing to support lower quality output. Although the industry is too weak to seriously threaten incumbents from the developed world on the global stage, it has substantial impact in its home country. In contrast, if demand is far more sophisticated than supply, local industry will struggle to respond to broad-based demand signals and will achieve accelerated learning only in niche areas. South Africa has become a niche producer in the global film industry rather than film producer in its own right partly because the widespread demand for Hollywood-quality products could not be met by local supply capabilities.