‘Looks like Mortal Kombat suffered a fatality at the box office (get it, because that’s a thing they say in the games?). The latest attempt to turn the video game franchise into a film was number one at the box office the last time we spoke of these things, but in the week since, it’s fallen to number two while the anime Demon Slayer: Mugen Train – which had previously been in second place – climbed to number one. But in both cases, the two top films lost 70% of their audiences, which isn’t a great sign for the box office in general.
It seems like only yesterday that we were all thinking the theatrical experience might be in good shape following the pandemic. Movies like Tom and Jerry and Godzilla vs. Kong were doing better than expected, and then the anime Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and the live-action Mortal Kombat both ended up in a fight to claim the top spot. Mortal Kombat ultimately won – at first.
Now, a week later, Demon Slayer has climbed from number two to number one. That’s abnormal box office behavior, and while it could suggest that things are starting to get back to normal, things don’t look so hot when you break down the numbers. As Forbes reports, Demon Slayer “grossed $6.426 million in weekend two, a drop of 71% from” a $21.14 million debut. Mortal Kombat earned $6.235 million, but also dropped “73% from its $23.3 million domestic debut.” For comparison’s sake, the absolutely terrible movie Mortal Kombat: Annihilation only dropped off 59% during its second weekend. You can probably figure out why the new Mortal Kombat had such a harsh fall-off: it’s also available on HBO Max.
Elsewhere in box office land, Godzilla vs. Kong held at third place, the awful indie horror film Separation came in at number four, and Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon is sitting at number five. Perhaps the biggest success story, though, is Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The film had a 10th-anniversary re-release over the weekend and came in at number eight. When originally released 10 years ago, Scott Pilgrim flopped – it opened in fifth place and dropped out of the top 10 by its second weekend. Seeing it land in the top 10 for its re-release is a fun little bit of news.
May is bound to be a much busier month for new movies than we’ve had in a while – Wrath of Man, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, Those Who Wish Me Dead, Cruella, and A Quiet Place Part II are all headed to theaters, although some of them will have options for streaming as well.
The battle of the highest-grossing movie in Japan was once fought between critically acclaimed titans of anime — Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning Spirited Away kept the title for years before being temporarily toppled by Makoto Shinkai’s sensational Your Name. But in 2020, another anime film obliterated Japanese box office records, becoming the highest-grossing movie in the country, and becoming the fourth highest-grossing film of 2020 (just outgrossing Tenet) even amid a global pandemic. It’s an anime film with a mouthful of a title and not much of a bearing to regular U.S. moviegoers: Demon Slayer – Kimetsu No Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train. And now, it’s coming to U.S. theaters.
Aniplex of America and Funimation announced that they are teaming up for the North American release of Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, which is officially set to open in U.S. theaters on April 23.
Directed by Haruo Sotozaki, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train is a sequel to the ongoing anime series which adapts the popular manga series by Koyoharu Gotouge which follows a young boy named Tanjiro who joins an elite group of demon slayers in order to find a cure for his sister after she is turned into a demon. The Demon Slayer anime debuted in 2019 and was an instant hit, praised for its sleek animation by studio ufotable.
The film acts as a bridge between the first and upcoming second season of Demon Slayer, which perhaps explains its sensational box office success: breaking the the $100 million milestone in Japan in just 10 days, and grossing nearly $400 million in the country alone, beating out Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and Titanic for the all-time record. That’s the best reason I can give for its success (I can’t imagine regular Japanese moviegoers who aren’t fans of the anime flocking to buy tickets for the R-rated flick). And though it might irk me a little that an all-time classic like Spirited Away has been surpassed by a big-budget chapter in a popular ongoing anime, it doesn’t seem to be bothering Miyazaki, who in hilariously typical fashion, couldn’t care less.
Demon Slayer: Mugen Train will be shown in both 4DX and IMAX, and both subtitled and English dubbed versions. According to Aniplex and Funimation, those interested in watching Mugen Train at home will have to wait until June 22, when digital purchase and rentals will be distributed on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, the Microsoft Store, Vudu, and the PlayStation Store. Pre-orders start April 26.
Season 1 of Demon Slayer is available to stream on Netflix, so there’s still time to catch up before the film hits theaters on April 23, 2021.
Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 masterpiece Spirited Away was a major global crossover hit — a critical and commercial success that earned the animated film an Oscar, and the title as Japan’s highest-grossing film in history, beating out Hollywood blockbuster Titanic. But 19 years after its release, Spirited Away has lost its crown to Demon Slayer.
Demon Slayer — Kimetsu no Yaiba — The Movie: Mugen Train has surpassed Spirited Away as the top grossing film in Japan ever. Japan Times reports that the film took in ¥32.47 billion and drew in 24 million to theaters since its opening on October 16, according to co-distributors Aniplex Inc. and Toho Co.
That’s a pretty major feat during a pandemic (albeit in a country that managed to curb its cases early on), and an even more major feat to end Spirited Away‘s 19-year reign with its box office haul of ¥31.68 billion. Even more impressive: Demon Slayer, which is a direct sequel to the popular action anime series, managed to pass the ¥30 billion mark in just 59 days — much faster than Spirited Away‘s 253 days.
But Spirited Away director Hayao Miyazaki isn’t too bothered by the dethroning of his beloved classic at the box office. Caught off guard by reporters while heading out of his home to pick up garbage in his neighborhood, Miyazaki was typically unfazed by the breathless questions asking about his opinion on Spirited Away losing its No. 1 title at the Japanese box office. His answers can be found below translated from Japanese (via HypeBeast):
On how he feels about Demon Slayer closing in on Spirited Away: “I don’t think that has anything to do with me. As long as the workplace they make is peaceful, and they’re doing their best–that’s all that matters.
On if he’s watched Demon Slayer: “I haven’t seen it. I rarely watch, I watch other things. I don’t watch TV or movies. I’m a retired old man who picks up trash.”
On how he feels about fans lamenting Spirited Away losing it’s spot: “I don’t care about that. The industry will be inflated these days. Anyway, I need to pick up trash…”
There he is, the trash-picking (but not trash-talking, at least intentionally) king. There’s likely plenty of people reading into this box office news as being the first sign of Studio Ghibli’s demise as being the pre-eminent studio for anime films, but Ghibli has weathered closures and retirements galore without losing its prestige. It, and Spirited Away‘s legacy, will be fine. Probably.
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