China Box Office: Makoto Shinkai’s Anime Hit ‘Suzume’ Soars With $50M Opening
Japanese anime maestro Makoto Shinkai’s latest feature Suzume shot to the top of China’s theatrical box office over the weekend, earning a strong $50 million, the biggest start for a non-Chinese film this year. The performance underscores the growing potency of Japanese anime in China’s huge movie market at a time when Hollywood superhero fare has been fizzling.
Suzume is currently projected to finish its run at around $90 million, according to projections from local ticketing service Maoyan. That would be the biggest performance ever by a Japanese animated feature. Beijing-based specialty distributor Road Pictures imported and released the film.
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The Hollywood studios, meanwhile, have stumbled in China in 2023. Disney/Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever earned just $15.6 million (compared to the first Black Panther‘s $105 million haul) and Ant-Man 3 took only $39 million (Ant-man 2 had $121 million). Warner Bros’ Shazam! 2 has brought in a disappointing $5.6 million (versus $44 million for the original Shazam!), while Unversal’s horror hit M3GAN has made only $2.8. million
Suzume has given Shinkai the best China opening of his career. His 2016 breakthrough, Your Name, debuted to $41.3 million on its way to a cumulative gross of $83.7 million. His 2019 follow-up, Weathering With You, opened to $22 million and topped out at $40.8 million.
Another youth fantasy adventure, Suzume follows a 17-year-old high school girl who helps a mysterious young man close doors from an outer realm that are releasing disasters all across Japan. The film made its international premiere in February at the Berlin Film Festival, where it was warmly received by critics critics (THR‘s reviewer summed it up as “a coming-of-age adventure that pulses with feeling”). It has already earned $105 million in Japan and $24 million in South Korea. It will open in the U.S. and much of Europe next month.
Suzume easily dominated several holdover titles as well as new Chinese releases over the weekend. Comedy drama Post Truth, which topped the charts the two previous frames, came in second with $12.5 million, according to Artisan Gateway. Its total is $86.4 million after 16 days on screens. New release The Best Is Yet to Come, an investigative journalism movie about a real-life public health scandal, opened in third place with $5.6 million. The movie made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 2020 to a positive critical response but then had to wait two and half years for release clearance amid the pandemic. It is produced by international festival favorite Jia Zhangke and directed by Wang Jing.
The Hollywood studios’ next major outing in China will come March 31 with the simultaneous release of Paramount’s Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and Sony’s adventure sci-fi 65. It’s possible, if not likely, though, that both of those films will later be out-earned by yet another Japanese anime blockbuster. Toei Animation’s basketball anime hit The Next Slam Dunk, which recently earned $34.5 million in Korea (the most ever by a Japanese film), has been set for a major China release on April 20.
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