After one Japanese title delivered at the sleepy December box office last weekend, that being Godzilla Minus One, here’s another that’s set to dominate: Studio Ghibli and GKIDS’ Hayao Miyazaki‘s The Boy and the Heron which is looking at a No. 1 lead with $10M+ after $2.39M Thursday and early access previews.
The comp here is quite literally last weekend’s Japanese live-action title Godzilla Minus One which saw previews of $2.1M before minting a $4.7M Friday, and 3-day of $11.4M at 2,308 theaters.
The Boy and the Heron played at 1,774 theaters yesterday in U.S. and Canada with showtimes starting at 5PM. The pic is booked at 2,205 theaters this weekend, including IMAX and PLF. It’s the first ever Studio Ghibli film to be presented in Imax. There were awards-qualifying preview engagements that began on Thanksgiving in New York and Los Angeles and those figures are going to be rolled into daily grosses on a prorated basis over the next two weeks per GKIDs.
Though Miyazaki retired in 2013, he came out to make this movie which is billed as “A semi-autobiographical fantasy about life, death, and creation.” In the pic, a young boy named Mahito yearns for his mother, and ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead. There, death comes to an end, and life finds a new beginning.
Miyazaki’s last film, The Wind Rises, via Disney made $5.2M stateside. The current highest opening weekend for a Studio Ghibli film is 2012’s The Secret World of Arrietty which opened to $6.4M via Disney and finaled at $19.2M stateside. The Boy and the Heron will easily surpass that pic’s opening footprint of 1,522 theaters to become the widest ever opening for a Studio Ghibli film as well as the widest opening for a GKIDS release. The Boy and the Heron is screening in subtitled and English dubbed prints. The English dubbed version features the voices of Christian Bale, Dave Bautista, Gemma Chan, Willem Dafoe, Karen Fukuhara, Mark Hamill, Robert Pattinson, and Florence Pugh.
The Boy and the Heron is 95% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and has grossed over $84M abroad, $56.1M one of that in its native Japan where it became Miyazaki’s highest opening ever there sans any promotion back in July.
The pic premiered internationally as the Opening Night Gala Presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival, a first for a Japanese or animated film. It recently won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Animated Feature and was honored among the National Board of Review’s Top 10 Films of 2023.
Speaking of Godzilla Minus One, the highest grossing Japanese live-action title stateside led Thursday with $1.25M (-8% from Wednesday) and a first week of $17M at 2,308 theaters. Pic’s second weekend looks to be $5M-$6M in what’s a toss-up for third place with AMC’s second frame of Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce.
That concert docu from the 32x Grammy winner paused showtimes Monday through Wednesday, but returned yesterday with $1.145M for a No. 3 spot at the Thursday B.O. She’s also looking at around $6M. Running cume for Beyonce is $23.1M.
Don’t underestimate Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes which placed second yesterday with $1.148M (-3% from Wednesday) and took in a third week of $19.5M at 3,691 theaters with a running total of $126.2M. Projections for the Francis Lawrence directed prequel’s fourth frame is around $8M.
Fourth place goes to Bleecker Street’s feature take of Broadway musical Waitress which did $672K at 1,214 theaters.
Fifth place is Apple Original Production’s Napoleon via Sony which made $609K yesterday, -13% from Wednesday, for a second week of $10.2M at 3,500 theaters and running total of $48.9M.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winning Poor Things, starring and produced by Emma Stone, is bowing in four markets in a total of nine theatres – New York (AMC Lincoln Square, Regal Union Square and Alamo Drafthouse, Brooklyn), Los Angeles (AMC Century City, AMC The Grove, AMC Burbank 16), San Francisco (AMC Metreon, Alamo Drafthouse Mission) and Austin (Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar). This is quite the spicey adult movie from Disney’s Searchlight, and it will be interesting to see how arthouse audiences embrace the movie which has spurred hot buzz among awards bloggers and media. The movie about a Frankenstein-like girl who finds her sexual independence across Europe is 93% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, which many also found to be audacious in its sexy content, posted a first weekend of $322K at seven theaters for a $46K theater average. Can Poor Things top that?
Saltburn, which posted an amazing -9% third weekend, post-Thanksgiving hold, ended its third week with $2.9M after a $256K Thursday and a running total of $7.6M. The Amazon MGM movie hits Prime on Dec. 22.