“Doraemon”, “Conan” – Anime movies are reaching new records one after another
Last year, the Japanese film industry blistered with activity due to movies like “Your name” and “Shin Godzilla”. “Your name” was able to establish a place in the history of Japanese film by making around 25 billion yen at the box office.
Moreover, the yearly box office revenue of Tōhō – the company producing and distributing these two works – reached a new all-time high in 2016 with 84.5 billion yen. Because the revenue of the preceding year amounted to 73.1 billion, it’s not difficult to imagine that those two works had a big influence on this year’s numbers.
“It is beyond dispute that last year was quite a good year for the film industry.”
It’s Ichikawa Minami, board director of Tōhō’s fine art picture company, who is telling us this. He continues:
“Last year’s momentum has carried over into this year. For japanese and western movies combined, we estimate a 120% increase from last year’s period between January and March. It’s said that [this year’s] March is the month with the highest revenues in our company’s history.”
When comparing the numbers from the last two periods up until march, “Your name.”, which came out in August, isn’t included in the equation for the prior year. However, it is said that anime movies are rising in popularity across the board, which may be attributed to the influence of “Your Name”’s success.
“It’s almost like the film industry as a whole is being pushed ahead by animation. The 37th “Doraemon” movie will be coming out this year, and the series has consecutively reached new record highs in the last two years. “Detective Conan” brought in 6.3 billion yen last year – also a record high – but this year’s 21st movie is looking like it could end up surpassing it, gathering between 6.5 and 7 billion. Before, we were at 3 billion, so you can see just how much revenue has increased. Because those movies have been continuously releasing since 20 or 30 years, parents are now taking their children with them. “Detective Conan” is a prominent example of a series adults don’t stop following in case they already watched it when they were children themselves.” (Ichikawa)
We already wrote about the anime movie boom in the last issue’s animation report. However, since the handling of “Your name” will be of relevance later, here’s Mr Ichikawas story one more time:
“Mr Shinkai had been working in tandem with Kawaguchi Noritaka, producer at Comix Wave Films, for decades. His previous work, “The Garden of Words”, was only shown in very few theaters and net revenues of 150 million. When Kawamura Genki from Tōhō’s film planning division joined the planning process [for the next movie], he talked about aiming for a bigger goal – 10 times as much – and reaching 1.5 billion. The responsibilities for distribution were not only entrusted to the film operations department they had worked together with until then, but also the sales department handling large-scale movies.” (Ichikawa)
In the end, the film wasn’t able to only make 10 times, but 100 times as much, coming up to 25 billion at the box office.
“People are now looking back and talking about where things went well. But last year, I was actually a bit timid regarding the release date. I discussed with others that we should avoid the summer vacation period because of the strong competition and release the movie in June or September.
We ended up releasing it in August after all. At first, mostly people around 20 came to see it and then the audience spread to teenagers before starting to encompass all generations, from young kids to seniors. It’s the same pattern of audience expansion we see when looking at Disney movies and Miyazaki anime.” (Ichikawa)
A clear change in the environment surrounding anime
Although we want to avoid writing about about the last issue’s feature topic for a second time, we also want to mention “In this corner of the world”, which became a surprise hit. Although its box office revenue wasn’t as big as that of „Your name“, it still managed to surpass 1 billion yen despite the goal having been only about 300 million. At first, it had been a mini-theater release, distributed by the Tokyo Theaters Company. It is worth noting that this film is a case which turned a common conception in the film industry – anime with war themes not doing well – on its head.
This is what Tarō Maki, producer for the Genco film company, told us.
“The basic task of a producer is to collect funds. It was January 2013 when I first heard of this project. For about one year and a half after that, things didn’t go very smoothly and by fall 2014, I decided that we just had to power through. So I started a crowdfunding campaign.
Crowdfunding wasn’t as well known back then as it is now, so I set a goal of 20 million yen for the time being. However, we were able to reach that goal in within 8 days of crowdfunding. At theaters, people from Theater Shinjuku and Euro Space in Shibuya told me that they wanted to show the movie at their screens although the movie hadn’t even finished production yet.
The film was finished in last year’s September, started showing in November and was so well received that people from Theater Shinjuku told me people couldn’t even get standing room tickets for multiple days. Because our advertising budget for the initial showings in 63 theaters had been 60 million yen, we had placed only a few TV adverts. But even then, talk on social networks exploded and more and more people came, having heard of the movie by word of mouth. By this year’s January, it was showing in almost 200 theatres and it seemed like we could end up surpassing 300.”
What helped with the success were moviegoers that were different from the regular anime fans.
“Truth to be told, the number of core anime fans coming to see this movie is actually pretty small. Core anime fans tend to be interested in robots, fantasy or things with so-called ‘moe’ elements, but this film has nothing of that. We have a very wide audience, but I’d say that it is centered around people in their 30s, 40s and 50s. We also have about 10% percent of seniors in their 60s.
Our initial goal for the box office had been 300 million yen. We told ourselves stuff like “it’d be a miracle if we reached 1 billion“ or “aim for the miraculous 1 billion”. But by now, we actually have made over 10 billion. However, because we thing talking about revenue isn’t really befitting this film, we prefer to talk about reach. So we say something like ‘we have managed to reach over one million people’.” (Tarō Maki – Producer)
This movie landing such a hit is a clear sign that the environment surrounding anime is changing. Until now, scenes of adults coming in large numbers to see anime in movie theaters would have been unimaginable. The adults who went to see the film probably didn’t go to theaters in the mindset of going to see an anime, but because they heard of an emotional war movie being shown.