Hayao Miyazaki Notches Record $12M+ U.S. Opening With ‘The Boy And The Heron’; ‘Renaissance’ Loses Glam With -77% Drop – Sunday Box Office Update

SUNDAY AM: GKIDs’ and Studio Ghibli’s The Boy and the Heron posted a $12.8M opening after a near $4M Saturday, giving both studios, and esteemed animated filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, their biggest openings ever in the U.S./Canada marketplace.

While a soft weekend with around $72.8M for all titles, the second weekend of December was +93% over the same period a year ago, +66% over the second frame of the last month of the year in 2021. It was, however, off -38% from pre-Covid 2019’s same weekend ($117.8M). But that’s when Jumanji: Next Level led the box office with a $59.2M. Important to note that between Boy and the Heron and the second weekend of Godzilla Minus One ($8.3M), Japanese box office repped close to a third of this weekend’s overall ticket sales.

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Imax domestic screens at 291 drew $2.4M for Boy and the Heron, repping a very big 20% of the pic’s opening. Overall PLF and Imax share is 38%. AMC Boston Commons was still the movie’s highest-grossing take in the U.S., with $63K through yesterday. Diversity demos are 43% Caucasian, 22% Latino, 7% Black, & 27% Asian/other.

Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes continues to hold strong in weekend 4, -33% for $9.4M, and a running total of $135.6M. Updated final domestic is around $160M. This Francis Lawrence-directed prequel of the Suzanne Collins novel isn’t going anywhere over the Christmas break, when the Warner Bros.’ juggernaut of Wonka, Aquaman 2, and The Color Purple arrives.

AMC’s Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce lost a lot of rings this weekend, with a reported -77% drop, or $5M, in 6th place.

Bleecker Street is calling $3.2M at 1,214 sites for Waitress the Musical, and rolling Thursday into Friday. The movie is 100% on Rotten Tomatoes critics with audiences nearly agreeing at 97%. The movie is playing best in the East, West, and South Central, with AMC Lincoln Square its best venue with a running cume of $15K.

Poor Things

Searchlight’s Yorgos Lanthimos, Emma Stone starring and produced Poor Things did ring bling with a $72K opening theater average (or 3-day of $644K at nine theaters), the best this autumn has seen so far, and the third-best of the year, as we told you yesterday behind Focus Features’ Asteroid City ($142K) and A24’s Beau Is Afraid ($80K).

That theater average opening is also higher than that of Everything Everywhere All at Once, which posted $50K per theater from ten cinemas. It pays to wait: you’ll remember that Poor Things was set to launch off its Venice Film Festival world premiere on Sept. 8, but was pushed by the actors’ strike. Searchlight has always fared better with these movies in early December, particularly when it comes to playing in the zeitgeist of the holiday frame and the awards qualification period.

In early exits polls, Poor Things received an A- CinemaScore. Audiences skewed 56% male, 70% under 35, 62% Caucasian, 17% Hispanic, 14% East Asian/Pacific Islander, 6% Black/African American, with 68% excellent with a 75% definite recommend. More than half the crowd are going to tell their friends to see Poor Things ASAP, describing it as visually interesting (81%), well-acted (79%), funny (69%), different/original (68%), interesting (65%) and entertaining (63%).


But wait, that’s not the only movie that was lighting the arthouse space on fire this weekend: NEON’s awards qualifying run of Ava DuVernay’s Origin at two theaters in NY and L.A. rang up a big $117K opening, for the fourth-highest per theater of 2023 with $58,5K, behind Asteroid City, Beau Is Afraid, and Poor Things, and ahead of A24’s Past Lives’ $58K). Interesting to note that the limited engagement was supported only by publicity and word-of-mouth stemming from the film’s Venice, Toronto, and regional film festival premieres.

As we told you, Origin became NEON’s highest-tested movie in the distributor’s history, outstripping Oscar Best Picture winner Parasite, as well as the highest for DuVernay.

Origin is based on Isabel Wilkerson’s 2020 bestseller Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents, and tracks the Pulitzer Prize winner’s creative and personal journey over several continents through grief, revelation, and the evils of historical stratification. King Richard Oscar nominee Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor plays Wilkerson. The movie contains strong and scary connections to today’s political realities, both domestic and international, from antiquity to India’s Dalit caste (once called Untouchables) to slavery in America and the segregation and violence of Jim Crow laws, and to the Nazis’ systematic persecution of Jews and the horrors of the Holocaust.

Origin received an eight-minute standing ovation at its Venice world premiere. With the movie, DuVernay became the first Black American woman to have a selection on the Lido.

“This is an incredible result for Origin, bringing in the 4th highest PSA of 2023. But it’s an especially meaningful achievement given that this is only a one week qualifying release. We look forward to the film’s true theatrical run in January.” beamed Elissa Federoff, president of NEON Distribution.

Origin goes wide on Jan. 19.

1.) Boy and the Heron (GKIDS) 2205 theaters Fri $5.56M Sat $3.99M Sun $3.2M 3-day $12.8M/Wk 1

2.) Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (LG) 3,665 (-26) theaters Fri $2.7M (-34%) Sat $4M Sun $2.7M 3-day $9.4M (-33%) /Total $135.7M /Wk 4

3.) Godzilla Minus One (Toho) 2,540 (+232) theaters, Fri $2.26M (-52%) Sat $3.6M Sun $2.M 3-day $8.3M (-31%) /Total $25.3M /Wk 2

4.) Trolls Band Together (Uni) 3,451 (-165) theaters Fri $1.38M (-18%) Sat $2.8M Sun $2M 3-day $6.2M (-21%) Total $83M/Wk 4

5.) Wish (Dis) 3,410 (-490) theaters, Fri $1.16M (-28%) Sat $2.4M Sun $1.74M 3 day $5.3M (-30%), Total $49.4M/Wk 3

6.) Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce (AMC) 2,542 (+3) theaters, Fri $1.6M (-86%) Sat $2.1M Sun $1.3M 3-day $5M (-77%), Total $28M/Wk 2

7.) Napoleon (App/Sony) 3,350 (-150) theaters, Fri $1.175M (-44%) Sat $1.8M Sun $1.2M 3-day $4.2M (-42%), Total $53.1M/Wk 3

8.) Waitress (BST) 1,214 theaters, Thu/Fri $1.4M Sat $1M Sun $809K 3-day $3.2M/Wk 1

9.) Animal (Cine) 622 (-69) Theaters, Fri $744K Sat $994K Sun $537K 3-day $2.275M (-65%), Total $11.6M/Wk 2

10.) The Shift (Angel) 2,415 theaters, Fri $610K (-65%) Sat $860K Sun $690K 3-day $2.1M (-50%), Total $8.5M/Wk 2

SATURDAY AM: GKIDS’ The Boy and the Heron is the distributor’s biggest opening ever, with a 3-day between $10.7M-$12M after a $5.56M Friday/previews. The overall marketplace, though sluggish, isn’t as bad as we thought, with around $69M, which is up +82% from a year ago. Thank God for small miracles. GKIDs’ previous 3-day record was Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You back in 2020 which posted $1.8M.

The Boy and the Heron
The Boy and the Heron

The Boy and the Heron is standing on high marks with an A- Cinemascore, 4 1/2 stars, and a 65% definite recommend. Mostly guys, not all, at 54%, with 80% of those who watched between 18-34 and the largest demo being 25-34 at 44%. Diversity demos are 43% Caucasian, 22% Latino and Hispanic, 7% Black, and 27% Asian/other. PLF and Imax are driving 38% of the gross so far. While the West is strong for the Hayao Miyazaki movie, the AMC Boston Commons is the highest-grossing cinema in the nation at $39K. We don’t see them often in the lead.

There’s some other victory laps here for The Boy and the Heron:

–The movie’s opening day easily bests the domestic take of Miyazaki’s last film, 2013’s The Wind Rises ($5.2M), and will rep the highest opening gross for a Studio Ghibli film.

Boy and the Heron is the only entirely foreign production to top the weekend box office this year, and the first since Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero in August 2022 ($21.1M).

–The Miyazaki movie is the first original anime (not based on existing IP) to ever top the weekend box office, and the third anime of any sort to do so (after Pokemon: The First Movie and Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero).

Boy and the Heron is also the first 2D animated feature not based on existing IP to top the weekend box office since 2009’s The Princess and the Frog from Disney. ($24.2M wide opening).

Also looking better this AM is the fourth weekend of Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, with around $9.4M.

AMC’ Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce has lost its glam with a $5.6M 3-day, -74%. Ouch. One could say that it was always destiny for the Queen Bey movie to drop, because it’s a concert movie and it’s front-loaded. However, this is the worst time to release a movie in the pre-Christmas period, when moviegoers are distracted with holiday activities. Furthermore, you can’t launch tentpoles on social media alone. You need a fire-breathing pummel of TV spots, and the whole 360 and talk shows of it all. It’s never prudent to approach theatrical quietly: Look at what Warner Bros is doing with Wonka, which opens next weekend and could explode beyond its projected $40M. I mean, the movie got a big push on The Tonight Show in a bit between Jimmy Fallon and Anne Hathaway — and she’s not even in the movie! She’s in NEON’s Eileen! The point is when you want your movie to go beyond the scope of any advertisement into the cultural ethos, so it can resonate. Wonka opens abroad this weekend with a $30M projection.

© Searchlight Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
© Searchlight Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Searchlight’s Poor Things isn’t penniless, with a robust $69K theater average, or $623K weekend at nine theaters after a $279K Friday. That’s shaping up to be the third-best opening theater average YTD, behind Focus Features’ Asteroid City ($142K) and A24’s Beau Is Afraid ($80K). It’s also ahead of Amazon MGM adult gothic romance Saltburn (which posted $46K from seven theaters in weekend one). Yorgos Lanthimos previous sexy period movie, The Favourite, which also starred Emma Stone, posted a $105,6K theater average. However, that was from four theaters that opened to $422K. Rich numbers for Poor Things from AMC Century City, AMC Burbank, AMC Grove and NYC’s AMC Lincoln Square, Alamo Brooklyn, Regal Union in NYC, Alamo San Fran, AMC Metreon San Fran and Alamo South Lamar Austin. The best is Lincon Square, with $52K through Friday, followed by Burbank with $41K. Poor Things in its adult content makes 1988’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being look like a Disney Princess film ($10M final domestic gross back then for the kinky Daniel Day Lewis, Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin movie). It will be really interesting to see if Poor Things resonates with older arthouse moviegoers. Anecdotally, the movie has great word of mouth among many awards voters.

The top 10:

1.) Boy and the Heron (GKIDS) 2205 theaters Fri $5.56M, 3-day $10.7M-$12M/Wk 1

2.) Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (LG) 3,665 (-26) theaters Fri $2.7M (-34%) 3-day $9.4M (-33%) /Total $135.7M /Wk 4

3.) Godzilla Minus One (Toho) 2,540 (+232) theaters, Fri $2.25M (-52%) 3-day $7.9M (-31%) /Total $24.9M /Wk 2

4.) Trolls Band Together 3,451 (-165) theaters Fri $1.35M (-20%) 3-day $6.2M (-21%) Total $83M/Wk 4

5.) Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce (AMC) 2,542 (+3) theaters, Fri $1.6M (-86%) 3-day $5.6M (-74%)Tottal $28.6M/Wk 2

6.) Wish (Dis) 3,410 (-490) theaters, Fri $1.16M (-28%) 3 day $5.4M (-29%), Total $49.5M/Wk 3

7.) Napoleon (App/Sony) 3,350 (-150) theaters, Fri $1.175M (-44%) 3-day $4.1M (-43%), Total $53M/Wk 3

8.) Animal (Cine) 622 (-69) Theaters, Fri $740K (-74%) 3-day $2.66M (-59%), Total $11.9M/Wk 2

9.) Waitress (BST) 1,214 theaters, Fri $763K 3-day $2.4M/Total $3M/Wk 1

10.) The Shift (Angel) 2,415 theaters, Fri $610K (-65%) 3-day $2.2M (-49%), Total $8.5M/Wk 2

FRIDAY PM: While the first weekend of December gets a bad rep for being slow, the second weekend is often slower, so don’t be surprised if all films total around $38M on par to the same frame a year ago. Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron, as expected, will lead all movies with an anticipated $10.7M opening after a $5.4M Friday at 2,205 theaters, which includes $2.39M previews. The movie currently has an 88% Rotten Tomatoes audience rating.

'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes' weekend box office.
'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes' weekend box office.

Second place goes to the fourth weekend of Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes with a Friday of $2.5M (-38%), 3-day of $8.75M (-38%), running total of $134.9M by Sunday EOD at 3,665 theaters. That domestic running total through 24 days is -7% behind Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald at the same point in time, and which opened in the same pre-Thanksgiving weekend back in 2018. That Harry Potter spinoff sequel finaled at $159.55M in U.S./Canada.

Third is Toho’s Godzilla Minus One at 2,540 theaters with a second Friday of $1.8M (-62%), second weekend of $6.4M (-44%) and running total of $23.4M by Sunday.

Universal/Dreamworks Animation’s Trolls Band Together will see a fourth Friday of $1.3M (-23%), 3-day of $6M (-23%) for a running total of $82.88M at 3,447 theaters.

AMC’s second weekend of Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce at 2,539 theaters is looking at a second Friday of $1.6M, -86%, and 3-day of $5.2M, -76%, running total of $28.2M. Maybe this movie should have played weekdays? That’s quite the steep drop next to Taylor Swift: Eras Tour which fell -64% in weekend 2. Renaissance‘s second frame percent wise is also worse than Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert (-67%), Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (-55%), and Michael Jackson’s This Is It (-43%).

Bleecker Street’s Waitress the Musical is looking at a Friday of $700K at 1,214 theaters and 3-day of $2.25M.

FRIDAY AM: After one Japanese title delivered at the sleepy December box office last weekend, that being Godzilla Minus One, here’s another that’s set to dominate: Studio Ghibli and Gkids’ Hayao Miyazaki toon The Boy and the Heron is looking at a No. 1 bow with $10M+ after $2.39M Thursday and early-access previews.

The comp here is quite literally last weekend’s Japanese live-action title Godzilla Minus One (read the review), which saw previews of $2.1M before minting a $4.7M Friday, and 3-day of $11.4M at 2,308 theaters.

The Boy and the Heron played at 1,774 theaters in U.S. and Canada with showtimes starting at 5 p.m. Thursday. The pic is booked at 2,205 theaters this weekend, including Imax and PLF. It’s the first Studio Ghibli film to be presented in Imax. There were awards-qualifying preview engagements that began on Thanksgiving in New York and Los Angeles, and those figures are going to be rolled into daily grosses on a prorated basis during the next two weeks, per Gkids.

RELATED: ‘The Boy And The Heron’ Producer & Studio Ghibli Co-Founder Toshio Suzuki On Hayao Miyazaki’s Most Personal Work

Although Miyazaki retired in 2013, he returned to make this movie, which is billed as “a semi-autobiographical fantasy about life, death and creation.” In the pic, a young boy named Mahito yearns for his mother and ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead. There, death comes to an end, and life finds a new beginning.

Miyazaki’s last film, The Wind Rises, made $5.2M stateside via Disney. The current highest opening weekend for a Studio Ghibli film is 2012’s The Secret World of Arrietty, which bowed with $6.4M via Disney and finaled at $19.2M stateside. The Boy and the Heron easily will surpass that pic’s opening footprint of 1,522 theaters to become the widest opening ever for a Studio Ghibli film as well as the widest opening for a Gkids release. The Boy and the Heron is screening in subtitled and English-dubbed prints. The big-name dubbed version features Christian Bale, Dave Bautista, Gemma Chan, Willem Dafoe, Karen Fukuhara, Mark Hamill, Robert Pattinson and Florence Pugh.

RELATED: ‘The Boy And The Heron’ Cinematographer Atsushi Okui On Adding Dark Aspects To The Animation To “Bring Forth The Darkness” In The Main Character

The Boy and the Heron is 95% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and has grossed more than $84M abroad, $56.1M one of that in its native Japan, where it reached Miyazaki’s highest opening ever there sans any promotion back in July.

The pic premiered internationally as the Opening Night Gala Presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival, a first for a Japanese or animated film. It recently won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Animated Feature and was honored among the National Board of Review’s Top 10 Films of 2023.

‘Godzilla Minus One’
‘Godzilla Minus One’

Speaking of Godzilla Minus One, the highest-grossing Japanese live-action title stateside led Thursday with $1.25M (-8% from Wednesday) and a first week of $17M at 2,308 theaters. The pic’s second weekend looks to be $5M-$6M in a tossup race for third place with AMC’s second frame of Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé.

That concert docu from the 32-time Grammy winner (read the review) paused showtimes Monday through Wednesday but returned Thursday with $1.145M to claim the day’s No. 3 spot. She’s also looking at around $6M. Running cume for Renaissance is $23.1M.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds and Snakes trailer
The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds and Snakes trailer

Don’t underestimate Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (read the review), which placed second Thursday with $1.148M (-3% from Wednesday) and took in a third week of $19.5M at 3,691 theaters with a running total of $126.2M. Projections for the fourth frame of the Francis Lawrence-directed prequel starring Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth is around $8M.

Fourth place goes to Bleecker Street’s feature take of Broadway musical Waitress, which did $672K at 1,214 theaters.

Fifth place is Apple Original Production’s Napoleon via Sony (read the review), which made $609K Thursday, -13% from Wednesday, for a second week of $10.2M at 3,500 theaters and running total of $48.9M.

RELATED: ‘Poor Things’ Trailer Spotlights A Reanimated Emma Stone & A Prosthetics-Modified Willem Dafoe

Yorgos Lanthimos’ Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winning Poor Things, starring and produced by Emma Stone (read the review), is bowing in four markets in a total of nine theaters – New York (AMC Lincoln Square, Regal Union Square and Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse), Los Angeles (AMC Century City, AMC The Grove, AMC Burbank 16), San Francisco (AMC Metreon, Alamo Drafthouse Mission) and Austin (Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar). This is quite the spicy adult-themed movie from Disney’s Searchlight, and it will be interesting to see how arthouse audiences embrace the pic, which has spurred hot buzz among awards bloggers and media. The movie about a Frankenstein-like girl who finds her sexual independence across Europe is 93% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, which many also found to be audacious in its sexy content, posted a first weekend of $322K at seven theaters for a $46K theater average. Can Poor Things top that?

Saltburn, which posted an amazing -9% third weekend, post-Thanksgiving hold, ended its third week with $2.9M after a $256K Thursday and a running total of $7.6M. The Amazon MGM movie hits Prime on December 22 (read the review).

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