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The verb for something that became popular (became a hit) when nobody expected it.

Their first four movies have been quite obscure to the masses up until the release of the fifth one, which ______ (became a hit?) and became very popular.

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    'Make it', 'make the mark', 'take off' are in the right area but don't sound as punchy as the antonym 'bomb'. 'Go viral' is perhaps better. But these only address your title question. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 9 '18 at 9:48
  • "... was the dark horse that unexpectedly/surprisingly turned out very popular." theidioms.com/dark-horse merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dark%20horse – Kris Mar 9 '18 at 11:13
  • Does 'boomed' work? – user252723 Mar 9 '18 at 12:53
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Not quite a single word, but a sleeper hit describes what you're looking for.

In the entertainment industry, a sleeper hit is a title (such as a film, song or game) that becomes successful gradually, often with little promotion.

Wikipedia

Edit: Also, it's not a verb. :/

So here's a verb suggestion: exploded

Their first four movies have been quite obscure to the masses up until the release of the fifth one, which exploded with popularity and became a sleeper hit.

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    But we needed a verb! – Kris Mar 9 '18 at 11:09
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    Doh. Indeed we do! – John Go-Soco Mar 9 '18 at 11:10
  • See how I turned the tables. (My comment at OP). – Kris Mar 9 '18 at 11:14

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