2013 Market Recap - JAPAN: Miyazaki Reigns Amidst Surprise Hollywood Hits

on December 23, 2013


By Daniel Loria

Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese auteur behind modern classics like Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle, has left an impression in film history and his name is on a shortlist of world-renowned animators who have advanced the art form through their work. The release of The Wind Rises was rumored to be Miyazaki's final film, as the director was expected to retire from filmmaking after its completion. New developments, however, suggest his retirement might not be permanent and expectation is already growing about the celebrated animator's next project. Miyazaki's possible return is good news for the Japanese box office, with The Wind Rises being the only film to break the $100 million mark in Japan this year after the animated film grossed $119.5 million since its July debut. 

Animation is the dominant genre in Japan, overshadowing nearly all other releases in terms of box office returns. Anime is a particular bright spot for contemporary Japanese cinema, responsible for some of the year's biggest hits. The anime stand-outs of the year include: Doraemon: Nobita's Secret Gadget Museum ($40.5M); Detective Conan: Private Eye in the Distant Sea ($36M); and Dragonball Z: Kami to Kami ($31.1M).

Hollywood's animated releases were led by a commanding performance from Monsters University. The Disney Pixar release was the second biggest film in the market after grossing $90.1 million, the largest sum from any overseas territory for the film. Monsters University grossed a total of $470 million overseas, making Japan's contribution account for around 19% of its overseas cume. Despicable Me 2 outperformed the Monsters in nearly every major market, with Japan being a notable exception. Despicable Me 2 finished its Japanese run with $24 million.
Disney had a great year in Japan to complement the success of Monsters University. Wreck-it Ralph finished its run with $29.6 million after a March release. Iron Man 3 didn't have the same blockbuster muscle as it did in other markets, but still posted a $25.1 million tally in Japan. The Lone Ranger might have been a major disappointment around the world, but that was not the case in Japan. The Lone Ranger found a sizable audience in the country, earning $20.6 million.

The Lone Ranger wasn't the only surprise Hollywood hit in Japan. Ted enjoyed a blockbuster $45.5 million run in the market, just a fraction below the $47.9 million the film earned in its release in the United Kingdom. A Good Day to Die Hard had to rely on the power of the overseas box office to overcome a disappointing $67.3 million gross in North America. The latest installment in the Die Hard franchise received a significant boost at the overseas box office from strong runs in China ($31.6M) and Japan ($21.6M).

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