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PONYO at the Box Office


Continuing coverage of all things Miyazaki at THE BEAT, let’s look at the opening weekend in the United States for PONYO.

The picture finished ninth this weekend at the box office, with $3.5 million weekend gross on 927 screens, for a per-screen average of $3,782. It was fourth among new films opening last weekend, finishing behind DISTRICT 9 ($37 m on 3049 screens), THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE ($19.2 m on 2988 screens) and THE GOODS ($6.9 m on 1838 screens).

This makes it already the third-highest grossing Miyazaki movie in the US. According to Box Office Mojo, it’s only $1.2 m behind HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, with SPIRITED AWAY at #1 with $10 m.

It probably goes without saying this is the most screens ever for a Miyazaki movie. SPIRITED AWAY was on 714 screens, a far cry from the paltry 129 for PRINCESS MONONOKE. I remember having to drive over an hour up to Philadelphia to see MONONOKE and that was the closest it came and I think only lasted 2 weeks in the theater.

As for critical acclaim, it’s currently at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, wth 79 positive reviews and 5 negative. (What’s wrong with those people?)

I saw it Friday afternoon and was thoroughly entertained, although perhaps not as much as some of the more “adult” previous works in the Miyazaki canon. Certainly a hearty review for anyone with kids the age of the characters in the movie.

Posted by mark coale

  1. I was pretty disappointed in the turn out for Ponyo at my local theater. Maybe about a quarter full for a Friday evening showing at 7:20.

    Also Princess Mononoke had to have played on more than 12 screens. I saw it in Aliso Viejo, CA (Orange County) of all places. Not the bastion of independent/foreign film openings.

  2. When Princess Mononoke came out, it actually played in Fort Wayne, IN, where I was living at the time. It didn’t last long at all, but since my older son worked at the theater, he had warning of its coming and we managed to go see it (there was no advertising at all in the local papers).

    My problem is with the dubs. I hate dubs. I want to watch anime subtitled – American voices in anime are really off-putting, they hardly ever get Japanese pronunciation right, and it grates on my ears. For the record, I’m half-Japanese and grew up hearing it.

  3. Saw Ponyo last night, and there was a good crowd. I liked it a lot, but Miyazaki can do little wrong in my eyes.

    And there’s no way Princess Mononoke was only on 12 screens. It was on at least 2 here in the South Bay.

  4. Kinda hard to subtitle a movie when the audience can’t read… not to mention that subtitled films fare worse at the box office.

    Previous Miyazaki DVDs have been subtitled with Japanese soundtracks.

  5. My wife & I had better luck with MONONOKE HIME (PRINCESS MONONOKE) than Heidi did. When we were living in Brockport, NY it opened at The Little in nearby Rochester. We got to see both the sub and (at a later date) the dub there.

  6. I loved it. I saw it in NYC and there were a lot of kids in the audience. Many of whom where dancing during the end credits and shouting Ponyo! I wanted to give them all high-fives.

  7. i wanted to support this movie in the theater…but i couldn’t find a subbed version. I was hoping there’d be one at a art house or something but no luck…will look for the japanese dvd in the meantime.

  8. When I saw it, there were a number of kids that would randomly shout “ponyo” during the movie. It was few enough to be cute, but not enough to be distracting.

    I went friday afternoon and the small theater was about 1/3 full, almost all kids and parents. Not too many obvious “stereotypical” anime fans.

  9. I was fortunate enough to catch the first showing of Princess Mononoke on opening day in Fairfield, CT.

    Showtime was around 11 AM. It was a Wednesday.

    I had the theater entirely to myself, which became a bother when the film slipped some cogs and projected the top half of the movie on the bottom, and the bottom half on the top.

    I looked around to see if anybody was doing anything, and realized I was it, so I rushed out to get the projection fixed.

    Had to do that twice more…in the largest personal living room I’ve ever been in.

    I could’ve even talked without being shushed…if there’d been anybody to talk to.

    Still, I didn’t realize it was only on twelve screens, so I feel fortunate I only had to drive a half-hour to the theater.

    A unique experience on so many levels.


  10. I went to Ponyo yesterday with my daughters, and we had a wonderful time! A film filled with so many brilliant Miyazaki touches, both large and small. One small quibble–first pointed out by my older daughter, and I then agreed because I had the same feeling: the climax didn’t resolve clearly, which at an adult level was mildly disappointing. Many of the earlier sequences were larger/more dramatic than the final sequence in which the boy was supposed to face a big test. It felt a little flat, too short, not enough danger or threat.

    However, none of this could spoil a great movie experience–Miyazaki’s endless design and visual creativity alone are worth the price of admission. Certainly, the middle-size audience which we were part of seemed to enjoy the film greatly!

  11. @Torsten Adair – RE subtitled DVDs: unfortunately, for The Cat Returns, the subtitling they give you is just the transcript of the English dub. Maybe they fixed later editions, but there’s sections where there’s subs but no dialogue, because the subs provided only match the English (and Disney added a lot of offscreen voiceover work).

    Also, I don’t know about other places, but some of the indie theaters around here will show subbed Miyazaki instead of the dubs.

    @Paul Rivoche – That the big test was passed as simply as all that was one of the most interesting things about the movie for me. I read it as a statement on the facility with which children can love and it was only the cynicism of adulthood that makes something like true love seems mysterious, elusive, and anything that could at all resemble a test.

    So yeah, in my mind, I’m trusting that the film was intentionally anticlimactic (in the common sense with which we understand climax).

  12. I usually hate dubbed anime, but Disney has done a good job with all the Ghibli stuff. Of course I want subtitled on the DVD release, but I’ll still support the dubbed version in the theater, if for no other reason to keep getting new movies brought to the US.

  13. I dunno. I think Disney’s done a fair job with some of the Ghibli stuff, but Castle in the Sky was abominable. I watched it with some subtitle-haters who were beginning for subtitles after fifteen minutes of the English.

  14. Ryan Higgins: Hear hear! Couldn’t agree more. Until you popped in, I was getting kinda depressed at how many people would let their anti-dub elitism prevent them from supporting the cause of getting more films like this in theatres. Have you all forgotten the days of anime fandom pre-2000 so easily?

  15. I love Whisper of the Heart too. It may be my favourite (that or Porco Rosso or Spirited Away). I’m dying for Disney to release either Ocean Waves or Only Yesterday—since my copies have terrible subtitling—but they just don’t seem to want to.

  16. I’d also like to see U.S. versions of Only Yesterday and Ocean Waves (and I need to watch them again, I haven’t watched those in years). I’m actually surprised they did as many U.S. versions as they did.

  17. I was pissed about The Cat Returns not having proper subtitles. Bah.

    Still, the Princes Mononoke dub was really good. I actually preferred Gillian Anderson as the old Wolf instead of some random old Japanese man.

  18. Mark,

    I think I may have been in the same audience as you. Was in the Times Square AMC at like 3:30? I saw a single guy with glasses, a sort of beard, and a backpack in the crowd. Was that you?

    It was such a *fun* movie. Very, very gorgeous. My favorite part was when a baby (maybe 18 months or so) ran up to me, said hi, and then his mom carried him away. It was that sort of fun environment!

  19. i have no problems with dubs, disney did a good job w/ mononoke, but just from the trailer whichever jonas brother it was…it was distracting. i do understand why it was dubbed to make it more accessible to kids. i guess i’ll just wait for the dvd w/ subtitles and support it that way.

  20. After a second viewing, I had more fun watching all the animals in the background in most scenes than the main plot. :>

    Be on the lookout for the octopus during the toy boat scene.

  21. I love Miyazaki’s films and would like to see them profit more in the USA – but, I can understand the low profits this weekend because only 4 theaters in the entire Metropolitan Saint Louis area carried this film. That’s sad, considering this is a rich, beautiful, and very visual stimulating Miyazaki work, probably one of his best. I imagine it will be nominated for an oscar in 2010, as were ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Howl’s.’

    Ameicaaaa semto like their animated movies done classic hollywood style and that’s a shame – there are so many other nice foreign animated films like Miyazaki’s and films like ‘Persopolis.’

    We loveyour films, Miyazaki, keep em coming!

  22. @Mark Coale – It may be childish, but my wife and I were squealing with joy watching to Octopus crawl around behind them. Huh. I keep saying “my wife and I.” I think our experience really and truly may be tied up together in Ponyo. Nearly every thirty seconds we would turn to look at each with expressions of glee to stammer things like “Omigosh, did you see that??” Serioiusly, this was one of the most joyful films I’ve ever experienced.

  23. My 6yo and 3yos loved it. Our theater in Montclair was completely full last Sunday afternoon. Of course, now I’m dying to find the Japanese version of the Ponyo song somewhere other than YouTube. As far as the ending being kind of flat, I think most of his kidcentric films are like that–Mei is found in Totoro, hugs, end. (You have to watch the pictures over the credits for closure.) Kiki ends with a whimper.

  24. One of my friends said yesterday “it was so refreshing to not see a talking dog or talking book or talking car.”

    This I guess ignores ponyo being a magic talking fish, but I understand his point about disneyfication of animated pictures.

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