The Boy and the Heron: Hayao Miyazaki’s final Studio Ghibli film breaks box office record despite no marketing

A UK distributor is yet to be announced for Miyazaki’s final Studio Ghibli movie

Louis Chilton
Friday 21 July 2023 20:27 BST
Spirited Away official trailer

The Boy and the Heron, the final film by animation master Hayao Miyazaki, has set box office records in Japan – despite the lack of a marketing campaign.

The film, originally titled How Do You Live? in Japanese, was produced for Studio Ghibli, the world-renowned animation house co-founded by Miyazaki, 82.

In the run-up to the film’s release last week, a single poster was issued, while plot details were kept under wraps. To date, there has been no trailer released for the film.

According to ComScore (via The Hollywood Reporter), The Boy and the Heron made 1.83bn yen ($13.2m/£10.1m) between Friday and Sunday.

The figure makes it the biggest opening weekend in the history of Studio Ghibli.

Speaking about the decision to eschew traditional marketing campaigns ahead of the film’s launch, Studio Ghibli lead producer Toshio Suzuki told Japanese magazine Bungei Shunji that the company had wanted to “do something different”.

“As part of company operations, over the years Ghibli has wanted people to come see the movies we’ve made. So we’ve thought about that and done a lot of different things for that purpose – but this time we were like, ‘Eh, we don’t need to do that,’” he said.

“Doing the same thing you’ve done before, over and over, you get tired of it. So we wanted to do something different.”

The Japanese box office is often described as slow-paced compared to the US market, with films continuing to perform steadily and even growing in popularity months after their initial release.

Miyazaki’s 2001 animation Spirited Away was the highest-grossing film in the country’s history, taking in 31.68bn yen ($305m) in Japan. It held the record for 19 years, before being surpassed in 2020 by Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train.

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Hayao Miyazaki, director of ‘The Boy and the Heron’

It was announced last Friday (14 July) that The Boy and the Heron had been acquired by US distributor Gkids, and would be released in cinemas stateside later this year.

Ghibli is known for animated feature films including Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbour Totoro and The Wind Rises, all of which were directed by Miyazaki.

The revered animator founded the studio alongside Suzuki and fellow director Isao Takahata in 1985. Takahata would himself direct a number of acclaimed films for the studio, including Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

A UK distributor for The Boy and the Heron is yet to be announced.

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