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Box Office: ‘The Boy and the Heron’ Rises to No. 1 in North America With Projected $10 Million Debut

Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron” looks to soar atop domestic charts this weekend after earning about $5.4 million across Friday and various preview screenings. Playing in 2,205 theaters, the GKids release has the benefit of Imax and other premium large format auditoriums to boost those numbers.

It’s another modest win for theaters in a marketplace that may not ever recover to pre-COVID levels. “The Boy and the Heron” is the latest in a series of more successful targeted event releases with smaller marketing spends. See last weekend’s openings of “Godzilla Minus One,” staying in third place for its sophomore outing, or even “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé,” which topped charts in its debut. Then there’s previous animated features from established anime like last year’s “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” ($38 million domestic) or the first “Demon Slayer” ($49 million domestic). Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli generally don’t dabble in IP; but, after a bunch of classics such as “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” they have franchise-level draw on name alone.

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It’s been a gradual global rollout for “The Boy and the Heron,” which has already spirited away $84 million internationally, including $56 million in its native Japan (released under the title “How Do You Live?”), where it ranks as the third-highest grossing release of the year. The 82-year-old Miyazaki had previously announced his retirement following his last feature, 2013’s war romance “The Wind Rises” — his return to filmmaking has played as an event. Early audiences are approving, with an “A-” grade on Cinema Score, and the film has earned critical raves typical for the animation master.

Of course, it’s easy for “The Boy and the Heron” to come in on top with no other new wide releases. Things are staying quiet while theater owners hope for a salvageable holiday season buoyed by blockbuster plays like “Wonka,” “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” and “Migration.”

Second place should go to the fourth weekend of Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” which is looking at a three-day gross of about $9.3 million for another impressively slim tumble of less than 35%. The dystopia prequel has been one of the few bright spots in recent weeks; domestic haul should reach $135 million through Sunday.

As already alluded to, Toho International’s “Godzilla Minus One” is still stomping around third place. Rivals are projecting about $7.9 million for the kaiju period piece, down only 31% from its debut and pushing its domestic total to about $25 million. That’s more than 12 times what the last foreign-language “Godzilla” movie did in North America, when “Shin Godzilla” arrived in 2016 to $1.9 million. The appetite for this type of theatrical release has swelled.

Fourth looks to go to Universal’s “Trolls Band Together,” which is projecting a slim drop (-21%) for another $6.2 million. With its domestic gross surpassing $80 million on Saturday, the DreamWorks Animation jukebox musical has decidedly won the battle for family audiences against Disney’s “Wish,” which opened a week after “Trolls” and has grossed only $45 million.

Taking a bit of a tumble is “Renaissance,” which earned $1.6 million on its second Friday — down more than 85% from last week’s opening day. The AMC Theatres release should push to about $28 million through the end of the weekend — still a solid figure for a concert documentary, but hardly the phenomenon that “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” managed two months ago when it fell only 64% in its second frame and reached $131 million in its first ten days. “Renaissance” is in a close race with “Wish” for fifth place.

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