‘The Boy and the Heron’ Leads Muted Box Office With $12.3 Million Opening

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The box office is laboring through a very slow weekend with Hollywood waiting until closer to Christmas to release new films. But it’s a great weekend for indie animation distributor GKIDS, as they have set a new company record with the $12.3 million opening for Studio Ghibli’s “The Boy and the Heron.”

Such a result makes Hayao Miyazaki’s new film the first original anime title to open to No. 1 at the U.S. box office, and puts it in position to become Miyazaki’s highest grossing movie in the U.S. after grossing over $85 million in Japan.

While noted by critics to be less accessible than many past Miyazaki films, the director’s devoted fans are still enjoying the film, giving it an A- on CinemaScore and 4.5/5 on PostTrak to go with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 96% critics and 91% audience.

Holdovers complete the rest of the box office top 5, starting with Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” with $9.4 million in its fourth weekend. While not the annual chart-topping success of past “Hunger Games” films, the prequel is legging out very well with a domestic total of $135 million and $279 million worldwide against a $100 million budget.

In third is Toho/Emick Media’s “Godzilla Minus One,” which is riding strong word-of-mouth to an $8.3 million second weekend. Alongside “The Boy and the Heron,” this marks the first time that two Japanese films have charted in the top 5 in the United States.

The latest installment of the 70-year-old kaiju series has struck a chord with an audience that is growing beyond longtime fans, so much so that Emick Media increased the film’s screen count by more than 200 theaters to 2,540 locations. “Godzilla Minus One” now has a two-weekend total of $25.3 million.

Universal/DreamWorks’ “Trolls Band Together” takes fourth with $6.2 million, giving it a domestic total of $83 million after four weekends. It’s been a tepid run for this animated threequel, which has grossed $174 million worldwide against a $95 million budget before marketing but is well short of the $347 million global total of the first “Trolls” in 2016.

But that’s a better result than Disney’s “Wish,” which is in a tight race for the No. 5 spot with Beyonce’s concert film “Renaissance.” That concert film, distributed by AMC and Variance, took a stiff 74% drop from its $21 million opening weekend to $5.4 million, par for the course for such titles.

“Wish” is set to make the same amount in its third weekend, grossing just $49.4 million in the U.S. after three weekends. Solid holds overseas are easing the pain as “Wish” now has a global total of $105 million, exceeding the miserable $73 million global total of “Strange World” last year, but it’s still a poor result for a film with a $200 million budget and the selling point of being Disney’s 100th anniversary film.

Overall, weekend totals have fallen 26% from last weekend to $73 million, among the lowest weekends of the year but up 90% from last year. It’s a microcosm of how 2023 has seen substantial improvement from last year’s box office but is still short of pre-COVID levels, as this weekend’s totals are 39% down from the second weekend of December in 2019.

Next weekend will see the release of Warner Bros.’ family musical “Wonka” starring Timothee Chalamet, which has been well received with an 83% Rotten Tomatoes score. The film grossed $43 million in 37 overseas markets this weekend and is projected for a $40 million domestic opening next weekend.

“Wonka” will be the first of three big holiday releases from Warner Bros., along with “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” and “The Color Purple.” With no “Avatar”-sized hits on the slate this year, theaters will be looking for Warner’s films to deliver the grosses that they need during the holidays.

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