Japan Box Office 2013: Animation Reigns Supreme, Hollywood Falters

Monsters University Mike - H 2013

Monsters University Mike - H 2013

Seven of the top ten hits of the year are animated, while Hollywood fare struggles to make an impact in a market it dominated a decade ago.

TOKYO – The Japanese box office was dominated by animation in 2013, with cartoons accounting for seven of the ten top-earning films. And even the third-biggest hit of the year Ted, the best performing live-action film, featured a CGI teddy bear.

A lack of the big local and Hollywood live-action franchises that have won over audiences in recent years, such as Umizaru, Bayside Shakedown, Harry Potter or Resident Evil, let the cartoons reign supreme in 2013, and left Hollywood struggling for market share.

Japan 2013 in Review: Hollywood's Box-Office Woe, Sony's Wild Ride

The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu), which Hayao Miyazaki has insisted is his last feature, predictably topped the charts with $116.1 million, with Monsters University following it fairly closely by pulling in an impressive $89 million, representing almost 20 percent of its overseas total for Disney/Pixar.

Ted was something of a surprise hit: while the Japanese love of all things cute is well documented, a foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, weed-smoking teddy bear wasn't the most predictable star of the year's biggest earning live-action production ($41.5 million).

Fourth place on the annual box office chart was taken by the latest Doraemon anime, which propelled the “cat-type robot” past Godzilla to become the most-watched franchise in Japanese cinematic history, with more than 100 million admissions.

Japan's First 3D 'Doraemon' Anime Set for 2014

Releases from popular anime franchises, Detective Conan, Pokemon and Dragon Ball all made the top ten, with Wreck-It Ralph, released locally as Sugar Rush, the only other Hollywood production on the chart, in tenth place, taking $29.3 million.

Iron Man 3 pulled in a decent $25.3 million to put it fourth on the Hollywood in Japan top ten list, while Despicable Me 2 took $21.3 million in fifth, scoring another hit for the toons. The Lone Ranger put in a relatively strong performance at the Japanese box office, finishing with more $20 million, making it the biggest overseas market by a wide margin.  

Although Hollywood's attention is now firmly fixed on the booming Chinese theatrical sector, Japan remains a potential billion-dollar-plus market opportunity for imported films, though one that is seemingly becoming harder to tap. Back in 2003, imported films took more than two-thirds of the $2 billion annual market.


Japan 2013 Box Office Overall Top 10

1) The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu), $116.1 million   

2) Monsters University, $89 million

3) Ted, $41.5 million           

4) Doraemon no Nobita no Himitsu Dogu Museum, $39.5 million

5) Detective Conan Private Eye in the Distant Sea (Meitantei Conan Zekkai no Private Eye), $35.7 million                    

6) The After Dinner Mysteries (Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de), $31.9 million             

7) Midsummer Formula (Manatsu no Hoteishiki), $31 million

8) Pokémon the Movie: Genesect and the Legend Awakened, $30.6 million

9) Dragon Ball Z Battle of the Gods, $30.4 million

10) Wreck-It Ralph, $29.3 million


Japan 2013 Box Office Top 10 for Hollywood Movies

1) Monsters University, $89 million

2) Ted, $41.5 million

3) Wreck-It Ralph, $29.3 million

4) Iron Man 3, $25.3 million

5) Despicable Me 2, $21.3 million

6) The Lone Ranger, $20.5 million

7) A Good Day to Die Hard, $20.2 million

8) Fast & Furious 7, $19.3 million

9) World War Z, $19 million

10) Life of Pi, $18.4 million

[Conversion rate used: $1 = 100 yen]


Twitter: @GavinJBlair