On Screen China: Japan’s ‘Your Name’ Looks to Win the Weekend

Look for Your Name to win this weekend’s box office easily with RMB 300 million ($43.5 million).
Despite regulators allowing a record number of imported films into November in a last-ditch effort to bolster the annual box office, China’s stagnating film industry took yet another downturn this month, pulling in RMB 2.543 billion (US$369 million) in monthly ticket receipts compared to RMB 2.661 billion ($386 million) from November 2015. The 4.5 percent slide in box office revenue is already the sixth month in 2016 to suffer a year-on-year decline.

Currently, the annual box office sits at RMB 41.42 billion ($6.01 billion). A robust December in Chinese theaters boosted by Your Name (Dec. 2), The Great Wall (Dec. 16), and See You Tomorrow (Dec. 23) should push this year’s total to RMB 45 billion ($6.5 billion), a slight increase over last year’s RMB 44.1 billion, but still a far cry from initial expectations. To put the slowdown in perspective, this year will be the first since 2003 that the Chinese box office sees only single-digit growth.

This weekend three wide releases kick off the beginning of 贺岁档 (pinyin – hèsuì dàng) or the New Year’s film season — the Japanese anime Your Name, Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, and a local wuxia film Swordmaster. All three new films will occupy higher opening day screen percentages than last weekend’s top two movies Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Moana, but only Your Name stands a chance at knocking Fantastic Beasts off its pedestal.

Your Name (你的名字)

China Distribution – Huaxia Film Distribution (华夏电影发行有限责任公司)
US Distribution – Funimation Films (2017 Release)

Along with Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid, Your Name is perhaps the most commercially successful, non-Hollywood film of 2016 and one that Western film fans should not overlook.

Your Name took Japan’s animation-friendly box office by storm this summer and topped the charts there for 12 straight weeks, only bested by Fantastic Beasts this past weekend. With $196 million to date, Your Name is the third-highest grossing Japanese film in history behind master Hiyao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away.

Director Makoto Shinkai’s mystical anime about body-swapping teenagers has also found similar success in Taiwan, where it has become the highest-grossing Japanese film of all-time after just six weeks.

Buzz following the Japanese release traveled quickly to Chinese youth — especially the post-90s demographic — and as word of mouth continued to spread organically, presales for Friday’s opening day reached RMB 34 million ($5.0 million).

It’s difficult to tell if these numbers signal a heavily front-loaded run where a fervent fan base shows up in full force on opening weekend only to taper off in subsequent weeks, or if Your Name can capture a broader audience. We’re betting on the latter.

Look for Your Name to win this weekend’s box office easily with RMB 300 million ($43.5 million). In the end, it will fly past Stand By Me Doraemon (RMB 530 million) as the highest-grossing Japanese film ever in China and could even join Zootopia (RMB 1.53 billion) and Kung Fu Panda 3 (RMB 1.01 billion) in the elusive RMB 1 billion ($145 million) animation club.