Hayao Miyazaki tops North American box office for the first time with The Boy and the Heron


For the first time in Hayao Miyazaki’s decades-spanning career, the 82-year-old Japanese anime master is No. 1 at the North American box office. Miyazaki’s latest enchantment, The Boy and the Heron, debuted with $12.8 million US, according to studio estimates.

The Boy and the Heron, the long-awaited animated fantasy from the director of Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and other cherished anime classics, is only the third anime to ever top the box office in U.S. and Canadian theatres and the first original anime to do so. The film, which is playing in both subtitled and dubbed versions, is also the first fully foreign film to land atop the domestic box office this year.

Though Miyazaki’s movies have often been enormous hits in Japan and Asia, they’ve traditionally made less of a mark in North American cinemas. The director’s previous best performer was his last movie, 2013’s The Wind Rises, which grossed $5.2 million US in its entire domestic run.

The Boy and the Heron, which earlier collected $56 million US in Japan, for years was expected to be Miyazaki’s swan song. But just as it was making its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, Junichi Nishioka, Studio Ghibli vice-president, said the previously retired Miyazaki is still working toward another film.

The Boy and the Heron has been hailed as one of the best films of the year. The film, featuring an English dub voice cast including Robert Pattinson, Christian Bale, Dave Bautista and Mark Hamill, follows a boy who, after his mother perishes in World War II bombing, is led by a mysterious heron to a portal that takes him to a fantastical realm. In Japan, its title translates to How Do You Live?

The Boy and the Heron is the first film that has topped the North American box office for Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/The Associated Press)

Last week’s top film, Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce, dropped steeply in its second weekend. The concert film, the second pop star release distributed by AMC Theatres following Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour, collected $5 million US over the weekend, a decline of 76 per cent from its $21 million US opening.

That allowed Lionsgate’s still-going-strong The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes to take second place, with an estimated $9.4 million US in its fourth weekend of release. The Hunger Games prequel has a domestic haul of $135.7 million US.

The Boy and the Heron wasn’t the only Japanese film that ranked among the top movies in theatres over the weekend. Godzilla Minus One followed its stellar debut last weekend with $8.3 million US for Toho Studios. Takashi Yamazaki’s acclaimed kaiju movie dipped just 27 per cent in its second weekend of release, bringing its total to $25 million US.

Several potential awards contenders got off to strong starts in limited release. Yorgos Lanthimos’ warped fantasy Poor Things, starring Emma Stone, opened with $644,000 US from nine theatres in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin, Texas. Poor Things expands to more theatres next week.

WATCH | Is Emma Stone’s ‘steampunk gender-flipped Frankenstein’ worth watching?: 

Day 69:02Emma Stone’s latest movie Poor Things is a ‘steampunk gender-flipped Frankenstein’ story with a feminist bent — but should you watch it?

Poor Things has one of the weirder and darker movie premises of the year: a Victorian-era mad scientist brings a dead woman back to life and replaces her brain with that of her unborn child. The result is a madcap coming-of-age tale that flips patriarchal stereotypes on their heads. Jane Crowther, editor-in-chief of Total Film delivers her verdict on whether you should watch it.

Ava DuVernay’s Origin played an Oscar-qualifying run in two theatres in New York and Los Angeles with a per screen average of $58,532 US for Neon. It stars Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as the author Isabel Wilkerson as she investigates race and inequality for her book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Origin opens wide Jan. 19.

Wonka, one of the holiday season’s most anticipated releases, kicked off its overseas run with $43.2 million US from 37 international markets. The film, starring Timothee Chalamet and directed by Paddington filmmaker Paul King, is expected to lead U.S. and Canada ticket sales next weekend.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *