In the world of animation, few names loom quite as large today as Hayao Miyazaki. That’s why, when he was rumored to be returning for his supposedly final film, expectations were incredibly high. Now that the world is finally getting to see The Boy and the Heron, it seems that the legendary director may the box office expectations are in, and on first flush, they reflect those expectations.
According to Studio Ghibli producer Toshi Suzuki, The Boy and the Heron is the most expensive Japanese film ever created, though he stopped short of disclosing the movie’s actual budget. Very little of that budget went into marketing, which consisted of a single image of a heron ahead of release and just a few promotional screenshots afterward. Despite such a lackluster marketing effort, the movie has already grossed more than $84 million worldwide before it even opened in North America on December 8.
That $84 million primarily comes from Japan, where Studio Ghibli movies have long been a strong performer at the box office. Spirit Away remains the second highest-grossing movie in Japanese history and the studio’s catalog occupies three of the top ten spots. The Boy and the Heron drew in the highest opening weekend in Studio Ghibli history, pulling in 1.83 billion yen in its first four days in cinemas. Still, the movie has a long way to go before it will reach the $395 million that Spirited Away brought in during its lifetime at the box office.
It is worth noting that Japan’s box office typically thrives on a slower burn, with word of mouth and critical reception keeping people coming to the cinema for months after a movie’s initial release. It could get a boost when American fans see it over the coming weekend or if it receives multiple nominations during award season as it is expected to.
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