‘Spirited Away’ breaks record for Japan animation films in U.S.

Kyodo

The award-winning animated film “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” (“Spirited Away”) has broken the U.S. box-office record for Japanese animation set by an earlier movie by the same director.

Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away,” already a hit in Japan, earned about $2.67 million over a 24-day period after premiering Sept. 20 in North America, according to U.S. film industry officials.

Another of Miyazaki’s animated films, “Mononoke Hime” (“Princess Mononoke”), held the previous record for Japanese animation in the U.S., with about $2.37 million.

Walt Disney Co., the film’s distributor, says the popularity of “Spirited Away” apparently spread by word of mouth and praise in the U.S. media. The film is now being shown at 138 theaters, up from an initial 26 theaters, catering to a wide-ranging audience including families, professionals and college students.

“Spirited Away” tells the story of Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl who becomes trapped in a world of spirits and must escape to rescue her parents from a spell that transformed them into pigs.

It was the first animated film to win the Golden Bear prize at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival last year. The film shared the festival’s top prize with British director Paul Greengrass’ “Bloody Sunday,” a film about Northern Ireland.

“Princess Mononoke,” which debuted in North America in October 1999, is a mythological tale of a war between humans and beast gods of the forests as a young warrior journeys to find a cure to a curse.

At the time, it surpassed the box-office earnings of another Miyazaki film, “Tonari-no Totoro” (“My Neighbor Totoro”).