Cinemas across the U.S. and Europe may be shutting up shop due to the pandemic, but Japan’s box office has just had a record hit.
More than 3.4 million people — or almost 3% of Japan’s entire population — put the risk of virus infection aside to turn up for the opening weekend of “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Infinite Train,” an animated film based on a hugely popular manga property.
The film took in a box office of ¥4.62 billion ($44 million) in the three days, the movie’s distributor announced. That blew past estimates and more than doubled the previous record held by “Frozen 2.”
Cinemas were shut during the country’s state of emergency earlier this year, and audiences have only slowly returned. While Japan still sees several hundred new coronavirus cases a day, that’s a far cry from the tens of thousands being reported in the U.S. and many European countries.
Telling the story of a young boy who becomes a demon fighter in Japan of the early 1900s, the manga has sold over 100 million copies during its publication from 2016 to 2020. An animated TV series premiered in 2019.
Shares of Toho Co., the movie’s distributor and the operator of Japan’s second-largest theater chain, reached a one-year high on Monday, while Edia Co., which makes paraphernalia based on the franchise, surged 13%.
“¥20 billion is becoming a realistic target for ‘Demon Slayer’” at the box office, Jefferies Japan Ltd. analyst Shinnosuke Takeuchi wrote in a note dated Oct. 19.
Even the government’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, hailed the movie at his daily news conference Tuesday. “In the midst of the pandemic, the record box-office has contributed greatly to the movie industry,” Kato told reporters, adding that he had watched some of the TV series recently.
“I try to keep an eye on what the people, particularly young people, are interested in,” he said. “I myself have read all of ‘Attack on Titan,’” another 100-million seller.
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