How Do You Live? earned more in its opening weekend than some of Ghibli’s most celebrated films, but how does it compare to other anime movie hits?

July 14 was the opening date for How Do You Live?, the newest anime movie from Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki. It’s the first Miyazaki anime in 10 years, following his initially intended retirement after 2013’s The Wind Rises, and also the first Ghibli theatrical anime since When Marnie Was There was released in 2014.

But How Do You Live?, which will be titled The Boy and the Heron when it makes its way to English-speaking countries, is the first Ghibli anime ever to be released with no trailer, TV commercials, or any other sort of preview or hints about its story, setting, or characters. Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki decided on the bold marketing strategy of doing no marketing at all, aside from a single poster showing a close-up of a bird creature or costume. Suzuki’s intent, he said, was to avoid what he sees as a problem of modern movie marketing, in which previews and press releases show so much that when it comes time to actually watch it, moviegoers are really just confirming what they already knew was going to happen. By keeping the details of How Do You Live? under wraps, Suzuki wants audiences to go in with no preconceptions about what they’re about to see. “Deep down inside, I think this is what moviegoers latently desire,” Suzuki said.

▼ Poster for How Do You Live?

But is Suzuki right? With July 14 falling on a Friday and the following Monday being a national holiday in Japan, How Do You Live? distributor Toho has now released the movie’s ticket sales data from its first four days. Between July 14 and July 17, How Do You Live? made 2.14 billion yen (approximately US$15.5 million) at the box office. That’s 50-percent more than The Wind Rises made in its first four days, and also more than 2001’s Spirited Away made in its first four days, despite both of those older films having full marketing campaigns.

The Wind Rises and Spirited Away were also July releases, both coming out on July 20, which was a Friday in both 2013 and 2001, though The Wind Rises’ first four days in theaters didn’t include a national holiday (Spirited Away’s did). Considering that Japan has had relatively little inflation in movie ticket prices over the last few decades, How Do You Live? having a stronger opening than The Wind Rises and Spirited Away seems like a sign that the no-marketing marketing plan was a smart decision.

But there’s another question to consider, though, which is how much the anime movie sector itself has grown in those years. In 2001, anime movies were still a small niche, with most works being of interest only to little kids (like annual Doraemon or Crayon Shin-chan installments) or hard-core otaku (Cowboy Bebop: Kockin’ on Heaven’s Door or Di Gi Charat – A Trip to the Planet), the latter of which were a much smaller demographic in Japan 20 years ago. Even 2013 largely predates the current pop culture climate in Japan where anime movies draw huge crowds and smash-hits like the films of Makoto Shinkai and Demon Slayer: Mugen Train become mainstream moviegoing phenomena.

So maybe the better thing to do is to compare the opening for How Do You Live? not to other Ghibli works, but to other big-name anime movies from a more recent time frame. Unfortunately, How Do You Live? opening on a holiday weekend and Toho releasing the revenue for its first four days makes it hard to directly compare its start with films with a more conventional opening tally, but here’s what Japanese box office data we do have.

● Detective Conan: Black Iron Submarine (2023): 3.146 billion yen in 3 days
● The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023): 1.843 billion yen in 3 days
● One Piece Film Red (2022): 2.25 billion yen in 2 days
● Suzume (2022): 1.884 billion yen in 2 days
● The First Slam Dunk (2022): 1.296 billion yen in 2 days
● Jujutsu Kaisen 0 (2021): 2.694 billion yen in 3 days
● Demon Slayer Mugen Train (2020): 4.623 billion yen in 3 days

▼ Preview for Detective Conan: Black Iron Submarine

With Ghibli’s reputation for producing the finest animation in Japan, it might be startling to see it getting out-earned by a billion yen, and that in one less, by an annual Detective Conan movie. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 also only needed three days to outpace the opening weekend tally for How Do You Live?, and One Piece Film Red did it in just two days.

On the other hand, How Do You Live?’s numbers don’t look half-bad in comparison to The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume, which are perhaps the more appropriate movies to compare Ghibli’s latest to. While Ghibli’s works are, undeniably, anime, they’re generally not aiming to scratch a specific otaku itch in the same way that part-of-a-franchise anime movies with an ensemble cast do. In the continuing otaku culture boom, these days there are a lot of superfans of series Demon Slayer or Jujutsu Kaisen superfans chomping at the bit to see their movies ASAP, and possibly multiple times, on their opening weekend (in the above Conan video, the last person interviewed says, as she’s leaving the theater, “I want to see it a whole bunch of times). By comparison, a lot of Japanese moviegoers are content to see Ghibli movies just once during their initial theatrical run, and then wait for them to come out on home video or air on TV before watching them again.

All that said, there’s no denying that How Do You Live?’s opening was smaller than a number of other anime movies that don’t have the exalted pedigree that Ghibli does. At the same time, it wasn’t a bad opening, and it’d look even better if we adjusted those other movies’ opening weekend figures down by subtracting their marketing costs, so it’s unlikely that Suzuki, or Ghibli, are regretting their no-marketing decision at this point.

Source: Oricon News, Mantan Web
Top image: Twitter/@JP_GHIBLI (edited by SoraNews24
Insert image: Studio Ghibli
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