Can Hayao Miyazaki's "The Boy and the Hare" top the U.S. box office this weekend?

Hayao Miyazaki's latest film, "The Boy and the Hare," finally opens in the United States this week, five months after its blockbuster release in Japan.

The enthusiasm for Studio Ghibli's work has been tremendous, and critics have praised it extensively, but how will this translate into box office receipts?

Will "The Boy and the Hare" be able to top U.S. movie theaters for the first time in Miyazaki's career? For one thing, it will be the most successful U.S. release ever for a Studio Ghibli film. The film was originally scheduled to be shown in 1,800 theaters, but according to Exhibitor Relations, that number has recently increased to more than 2,200.

This figure is comparable to the crunch-roll release of Makoto Shinkai's "Suzume," which opened in 2,170 theaters in April; according to Box Office Pro, "The Boy and the Hare" is currently 135% ahead of "Suzume's" Thursday presales.

"The Sparrow" ended its opening weekend with $5 million. A similar performance by "The Boy and the Hare" would be a major disappointment, especially given the disparity in competition the two films would have faced. Suzume opened on the second weekend of the Super Mario Bros. Movie, and the video game adaptation earned $92.3 million, drawing a large audience away from Shinkai's film.

Conversely, there will be little competition this weekend for "The Boy and the Hare." No major studio releases are scheduled, and many box office tracking sites have stated that this may be the weakest weekend of the year.

Currently, most of those sites are projecting an opening weekend of $7 million to $10 million for The Boy and the Heron. If the film reaches the top end of those projections, it will need "Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé" to drop more than 50% in its second week to take the top spot. The concert film opened to $21.8 million last weekend.

Holdovers that could take away Heron's audience include The Hunger Games: The Balland of Songbirds and Snakes with $14.2 million last weekend and Godzilla Minus One with $11.4 million. Both films look likely to underperform "The Boy and the Heron" in the future.

No matter what happens, "The Boy and the Hare" is absolutely certain to be the biggest U.S. opening of any Miyazaki film. The director's films, and Ghibli films in general, have generally had very limited theatrical releases, mostly from Disney. For example, "Spirited Away" was shown in 26 theaters when it opened in the U.S. and grossed only $449,839. after winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003, the film was shown in more theaters, but it still fell far short of "A Boy and His Hare" at the box office. The Wind Rises was released in 21 theaters, and Howl's Moving Castle in 36.

Miyazaki's biggest opening and highest grossing film was "Ponyo," which opened in 927 theaters in 2009 and grossed $3.6 million on its first weekend. The largest release for a Ghibli film is The Secret World of Arrietty, which opened in 1,522 theaters in February 2012 and grossed $6.4 million on its opening weekend.