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Box Office: Hayao Miyazaki Achieves First North American #1 with The Boy and the Heron‘s $13 Million Opening

For a second weekend in a row, none of the major studios released a new movie; this weekend, there were only a couple new wide releases, the biggest one being the latest from Oscar-winning Japanese animation filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away).

Miyazaki’s latest (and at one point, thought to be his last) film, The Boy and the Heron, was released in Japan on July 14 under the title How Do You Live? — after the Japanese novel that inspired the film — racking up $56.2 million just in Japan before receiving a North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September.

On Friday, GKIDS released The Boy and the Hero into 2,205 theaters after a two-week platform release in New York and L.A. release, as well as a number of early previews. It led Friday with $5.6 million, including some amount of money from those earlier releases, and it won the weekend quite definitively with $13 million. Even so, it’s a little unclear how much of that amount comes from earlier previews and its platform release, as some sources have it only making $10.5 million over the actual three-day weekend.

The Boy and the Heron just received a couple of Golden Globes nominations, which could help it maintain business through the holidays, especially considering its “A-” CinemaScore, as well as stellar reviews.

Second place went to Lionsgate‘s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes with $9.4 million, down 34% from last weekend as it remains in 3,665 theaters in its fourth weekend. Of the movies released in November, it’s the only bonafide blockbuster with $135.6 million grossed just in North America.

Toho International is also having a bonafide U.S. hit with Godzilla Minus One, which remained in third place with $8.3 million, down just 27% from its impressive opening weekend, and with $25.3 million after just two weeks. By comparison, the studio’s previous Godzilla import, Shin Godzilla, made less than $2 million in North America when released by FUNimation Entertainment vs. $76 million overseas. Godzilla Minus One is very likely to outgross at least two of FUNimation (and later, Crunchyroll‘s) Anime hits, although the 2021 Demon Slayer film did reach nearly $50 million domestically.

This prequel was directed by Takashi Yamazaki for a reported (yet to be confirmed) production budget of just $15 million, which is opening a lot of eyes (and hopefully a few minds) in Hollywood as far as the level of filmmaking Japan is achieving at a fraction of the budget of major studio tentpoles.

This is also the first time ever when two films produced in Japan took up two places in the top 3, so we’ll have to see how well they hold through the end of December with many new movies being released for Christmas.

All three of the above movies received IMAX releases, as the IMAX corporation reported that it crossed the billion dollar mark globally for only the third time ever, the previous two times being in 2018 and 2019, likely bolstered by the releases of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. This year’s milestone was achieved without enormous franchises, such as a Star Wars film, so it’s quite a feather in that IMAX cap.

DreamWorks Animation‘s Trolls Band Together also remained in fourth place with $6.2 million, down just 21%, as it continues to be one of the season’s stronger family films even with new competition from The Boy and the Heron. It has grossed $83 million domestically, which is a far cry from the 2016 Trolls, but it’s far better than Walt Disney Animation‘s Wish, which remained in fifth place with $5.3 million (down 31%) and $49.4 million after three weeks.

That’s another bad hit for Disney after Marvel Studios‘ The Marvels tanked — let’s face that there’s no other way to categorize what happened there — but it’s not doing as poorly as Renaissanace: A Film by BeyoncéAMC Theaters Distribution‘s attempt to follow-up its blockbuster hit Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour with another hit concert film. After opening with just $21.8 million in 2,539 theaters last weekend, the concert doc plummeted from first place down to sixth with just $5 million (down 77%!) for a total of $28 million to date. That’s right. Beyoncé may be surpassed by a Japanese Godzilla film, which Warner Bros certainly should be looking at with optimism, considering its own Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire being released on April 12, 2024.

Ridley Scott‘s Napoleon took seventh place with $4.2 million (down 42%) with $53.1 million grossed domestically, but doing far better overseas with another $16.1 million made overseas this weekend for an international total of $117.7 million and a global take of $170.8 million. (Not receiving a single nomination at today’s Golden Globes announcement is not a good sign for it faring much better further into awards season.)

Other overseas releases this weekend, included Warner Bros’ Wonka, starring Timothée Chalamet, which opened #1 in 32 of its 37 markets with $43.2 million ahead of its North American release on Friday, Dec. 15. Universal opened Illumination Entertainment‘s animated, Migration, into 18 select international markets where it grossed $6.5 million, including $2 million in France, $1.8 million in Italy, and a million in China. The latter does not bode well for the movie’s U.S. release over Christmas.

Bleecker Street and Fathom Events released its own “concert doc” Waitress: The Musical, actually a documentation of the hit Sara Bareilles Broadway musical, into 1,214 theaters on Thursday. It opened with $672k its first day and then added another $2.6 million over the weekend, although a few sources are reporting it made $3.3 million just over the three-day weekend. We’ll try to get to the bottom of this, although this was originally intended as a five-day release, and there’s a good chance it will be extended with its eighth place opening.

Poor Things
Emma Stone in Poor Things/Searchlight Pictures

After three months of festival and critical acclaim, Searchlight Studios released Yorgos Lanthimos‘ Poor Things, starring Emma StoneMark RuffaloWillem Dafoe, and Ramy Youssef, into nine theaters in select cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Austin. It scored $644k in those nine theaters, achieving the third-highest per-theater average of the year with $71k per venue, which is behind the opening weekend averages for Wes Anderson‘s Asteroid City and Ari Aster‘s Beau is Afraid. Searchlight is planning an expansion into 80 theaters this coming Friday and a further expansion on Dec. 22, but with seven Golden Globe nominations announced this morning, we’ll have to see if Searchlight will take advantage of the boom in holiday moviegoing to expand nationwide before its inevitable Oscar nominations in January.

NEON also opened Ava Duvernay‘s critically-acclaimed drama, Origin, starring Anjaunue Ellis-Taylor, quietly into just two theaters in New York and L.A. — mainly for awards consideration — but it managed to bring in $117k or $58.5k per theater ahead of its planned nationwide release in January. You can also read Abe Friedtanzer‘s review to learn more about it.

The faith-based The Oath was self-released through Freestyle Releasing into 640 theaters, an unmitigated bomb with just $280k and an average of just $437 per theater. It’s already been forgotten.

Weekend Box Office

 

Rank Entry Distributor Revenue Theater Count Total Revenue
1 The Boy and the Heron (君たちはどう生きるか) GKIDS $12,836,313 2,205 $12,836,313
2 The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Lionsgate $9,400,000 3,665 $135,655,926
3 Godzilla Minus One (ゴジラ最新作) Toho International $8,342,710 2,540 $25,344,044
4 Trolls Band Together Universal $6,200,000 3,451 $83,081,775
5 Wish Walt Disney $5,300,000 3,410 $49,412,846
6 RENAISSANCE: A FILM BY BEYONCÉ AMC Theatres Distribution $5,000,000 2,539 $28,051,164
7 Napoleon Sony Pictures $4,200,000 3,350 $53,094,572
8 Waitress: The Musical Bleecker Street $3,237,875 1,214 $3,909,980
9 Animal Moksha Movies $2,275,000 622 $11,552,377
10 The Shift Angel Studios $2,159,077 2,450 $8,501,877
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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