"It's time for people to really start taking this seriously": Anime is booming at the U.S. box office.

At a time when many films are struggling to achieve success at the North American box office, Japanese animation is experiencing a boom in popularity like never before seen in U.S. cinemas.

There are only 6 anime films that have sold more thanり3000 million at the U.S. box office, 4 of which have come out in the past 3 years: Dragon Ball Super: Broly (2019), Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train (2021), Jujutsu Kaisen0 (2022), and Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero (2022).

One Piece Film Red will be released in the US this week. In Japan, it was the highest-grossing film of the year, the 9th highest-grossing film in history, with a staggering domestic box office of 17.74 billion yen (ド127 million). One Piece's U.S. distributor Crunchyroll believes the film will be a hit in the U.S., putting the weight of its marketing department behind the film.

In order to examine the causes, effects, and sustainability of the anime boom in the United States, Cartoon Brew announced the global acquisition of Crunchyroll (Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero) and the acquisition of global content.; Gkids distribution Director Chance Huskey (Belle, Goodbye, Don Glees.Miki Niina, Vice President of Distribution at Eleven Arts (Penguin Highway Chimney Town).

According to Miki Shinna, new standards of Japanese animation in the US box office have been set over the past few years.

"Movies based on some of the most popular animated series may now compete with major Hollywood movies," she says. "That didn't happen much 10 years ago.

In fact, until recently, Pokemon was the only anime franchise that sold more than国内1 million domestically in one of its films in 2000.

More North American exhibitors and box office analysts should be aware of the growing popularity of anime among audiences, says GKIDS Chance Huskey.

"These movies are doing real studio numbers now and I don't think people are giving them enough credit, especially box office reporters," he says. "The story seems to be "Oh, those anime people are at it again," but it's time for people to really start taking this seriously. These films make more than many famous Hollywood studio films.

Contributing to the new standard is the intersection of several different things that change in the industry, Zehner said. First of all, Japan has a tremendous talent. Then you have a really passionate fanbase. There are also significant changes in the entertainment industry. All of these collided in a very favorable way for the anime."

Huskey explains that last year marked a major turning point for U.S. anime after Sony acquired Crunchyroll and merged its streamer distributor with Funimation.

"Sony integrated Funimation and Crunchyroll to help clear the backlog and delays between the Japanese and U.S. markets," he says, and access for U.S. fans almost overnight.

"I think the integration on the corporate side reflects the wide accessibility of anime," he says . "Fans who needed to dig in to find basic information about the franchise now had everything immediately available with a simple trial to the streaming platform."This is an important consideration because many anime ips are decades old and already have hundreds of hours of lore.

Speaking from the inside, Zehner said, "I've been with Funimation and Crunchyroll for 18 years and it was exciting to see anime grow. We always wanted to support it, but we didn't necessarily have the financial capacity to do so. Now, as anime is evolving, as more and more fans are finding anime, it sa really various content that spreads our wings to us as well

Zehner said, "There were many gatekeepers in the past. Whether you are a TV station programmer or a theater chain person, there were times when the audience was watching anime, but it was not familiar, so they did not think about anime. For those people, it was not a proven content, so without the history and numbers that showed that the anime would succeed, they would not have been involved.

This created Catch 22 for anime distributors. Exhibitors didn't show the movie because they didn't have enough data to prove that anime would be a success at the U.S. box office, but because streaming without a movie in a movie theater gave people direct access to anime franchises and allowed them to collect audience data, they would definitely be interested in Japanese anime content. It proved that the demand of the audience for it was significantly increased.

"It was a very important shift for anime because it removed some of the prejudices people had," Zehner says. "It's not that exhibitors didn't want to believe in anime, they just didn't have enough data to do so.

He recalls a time when "it was very hard to convince the theater chain that anime fans would show up. I remember when we launched Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods, the predictions from the theater chain were not so high. In the end, we did about2255 million and they were surprised."

Now, that Dragon2.55 million looks quaint when compared to what the Dragon Ball franchise can achieve in US cinemas.

Persuading exhibitors to host anime has become even more difficult due to cultural bias, Niina claims. "There was a time when anime was seen only by certain types of people, so it was seen as otaku and otaku culture. But when the variety of content became available, the bias began to fade.

Now, she says, "Theaters and exhibitors have seen the recent success of anime and started booking more anime movies.""

Huskies agree," traditionally, anime was considered counter-programming. Due to various fluctuations in the market recently, it is moving more into the mainstream."

Of course, behind the commercial push made by distributors and exhibitors, there must be a desire among the audience to watch the film. To that end, distributors and some willing exhibitors have started programming that can't miss the event screening, while screening the film in more cinemas than ever before.

"The name of the anime game is accessibility, and we need to make it accessible to as many people as possible," Husky says. "Is that why we see a lot of anime event-style releases, or are they sometimes treated by exhibitors as alternative content?" The idea is that often you play a reduced schedule, but it can make a big impact on you in a short time. This is a way to maximize and focus its audience on hours and days that work well for exhibitors.

"There is a new term for this style of screening called 'chia screening'," he says. "We first experienced it at Promare in 2019. Studio Trigger fan and film director Hiroyuki Imaishi brought a light and a noise maker and was screaming on the screen. And it's the kind of magic we want to capture in certain movies that have a festive atmosphere.

According to Zehner, there are historical reasons why animated films adopt an event screening model. For the past few decades, animated films have rarely been shown in theaters for more than 1-2 weeks, and fans have been driven by the urge to watch them as soon as the film is available. Echoes of that conditioning remain today, and Zehner recalls that it raw most of the box office in the first week or two of its release with so many animated films

"Historically, you often only had a day or two to come to see a movie," he recalls. "I think that sense of urgency is great, but it is a model that is very suitable for the front-loaded release schedule."

While recent trends suggest that Big IP anime features should aim higher than ever at the US box office, the agency agrees that the success of franchise films should help the prospects of indie and auteur anime features as well.

"Existing major Ip can easily make top box office numbers, and it can definitely be the key to the theatrical success of other anime films," Niina says, "Major Ip is often the first anime that new fans will see." But that does not mean that indie and writer anime can not succeed.

Husky agrees, but says it's still early days. "We're just starting to put out a lot of [indie] content this year, so it's still a bit hard to navigate. But I take heart to the idea that audiences are interested in discovering these films."

Niina acknowledges the need to develop a custom marketing plan for indie titles: "Indie animated films need to take different steps to be successfully promoted. As a distributor, the key to success is to find the right promotional angle and implement those ideas. If they match well, animated films beyond the major Ip have a chance to succeed at the U.S. box office.”