It turns out that Hayao Miyazaki had nothing to worry about.
Before the release of his latest highly anticipated film, The boy and the heronIn Japan on Friday, the legendary animator voiced some concerns about Studio Ghibli’s unprecedented plan to not do any marketing for the film at all: no trailers, no TV spots, not even an announced plot summary or cast. Two weeks before the launch, Ghibli co-founder and president Toshio Suzuki revealed At an event in Tokyo, Miyazaki was a bit anxious about the decision not to do publicity for what is expected to be his last film. “I believe in you, Mr. Suzuki,” Miyazaki said. “But I’m worried…”
Suzuki reportedly defended his strategy by saying, “In this age of so much information, in my opinion, lack of information is entertainment. I don’t know if this will work. But as for me, I believe in it.”
Needless to say, Miyazaki is now probably feeling at ease.
The boy and the heron it earned $13.2 (1.83 billion yen) from Friday to Sunday, according to ComScore. In yen, that’s the biggest opening in Studio Ghibli history, surpassing Howl’s Moving CastleThe debut of 1.48 billion yen in 2004 (The yen is currently trading at historic weakness relative to the dollar, so when traded to dollars, Howl he actually made a little more at $14 million). In Imax, The boy and the heron opened to $1.7 million from 44 screens, setting a new 3-day record for the giant screen operator in Japan.
However, Japan is a famously slow-burn theatrical market, so a film’s grab and word of mouth tend to matter much more than its initial impact. Since its $14 million inception, Howl’s Moving Castlefor example, it eventually went up to $190 million in a local release that lasted 407 days.
No major Western outlet has reviewed The boy and the heron however, Japan-based media have described the film as an experience of “truly astonishing” visual beauty and deep philosophical messages. Overall, the film has been summed up as more adult and enigmatic than much of the Ghibli catalog, which might require repeat viewings to fully appreciate.
The boy and the heron it will be released in North America by specialty distributor GKIDS sometime later this year. On the festival circuit, insiders are already talking about a possible international premiere at the upcoming Venice Film Festival, where Miyazaki Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), ponyo (2008) and The wind increases (2013) all received their first screenings outside of Japan.