Acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki‘s The Boy and the Heron is on course for a record-breaking $10 million to $11 million opening, making it the first original anime title in history to top the North American box office chart.
The whimsical Japanese film wisely chose to open on a weekend when there were no new wide releases from the major Hollywood studios. The first and second weekends of December are generally quiet as the studios prepare to unwrap their big Christmas films. (This year, the year-end holiday action gets underway next weekend when Warner Bros. opens Wonka, although it is debuting in select markets overseas this weekend.)
The Boy and the Heron film is shattering other records as well, including already becoming Miyazaki’s top-grossing film domestically after earning $5.6 million on Friday from 2,205 theaters, not adjusted for inflation. His previous best, 2013’s The Wind Rises earned $5.2 million in its entire North American run.
The Boy and the Heron is also on track to claim the biggest domestic opening for a Studio Ghibli film and will mark the biggest bow ever for GKIDS, the film’s U.S. distributor. It’s the first foreign production to top the North American chart this year.
Miyazaki’s movie — which has earned north of $85 million in Japan — had a high-profile presence on the fall film festival circuit, including becoming the first animated title to open the Toronto Film Festival.
Coming in at No. 2 this weekend is Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes with a projected $9 million to $10 million from 3,665 locations in its fourth outing.
Japanese monster pic Godzilla Minus One will come in third place in its second weekend with a pleasing $8 million or thereabouts from 2,450 cinemas (no one can remember another time when two Japanese titles landed in the top five at the North American box office).
Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls Band Together is holding at No. 4 with an estimated weekend haul of $6.2 million from 3,451 theaters.
It remains to be seen whether AMC Theatres’ Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé or Disney’s Wish comes in at No. 5, with both currently pacing to earn $5 million to $5.5 million.
Beyoncé‘s concert film is falling off steeply after opening to No. 1 last weekend and could suffer a drop of as much as 74 percent. The pic is playing in 2,542 locations, while Wish is booked in 3,450 cinemas.
Elsewhere, Bleecker Street’s Waitress: The Musical is opening in 1,214 locations. The film is expected to place No. 9 with between $2.5 million and $3 million.
At the specialty box office, Yorgos Lanthimos‘ dark comedy Poor Things is doing rich business as it opens in nine cinemas and could score one of the top per-theater averages of the year ($65,000 to $70,000) as Searchlight Pictures ramps up the film’s awards campaign. Poor Things, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, went on to be named one of the 10 best films of the year by both the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review.