Hayao Miyazaki’s final film “The Boy and the Heron” set a record with the biggest opening weekend of any Studio Ghibli production despite virtually zero marketing efforts.
An unadvertised masterpiece:
Originally titled “How Do You Live
,” the film made 1.83 billion yen (approximately $13 million) between Friday and Sunday, according to ComScore via The Hollywood Reporter
Beyond an initial promotional image for the film featuring a heron, Studio Ghibli’s
marketing strategy boiled down to no marketing at all
, as no information regarding the film’s plot, posters or trailers were released prior to the film’s debut. All that was known about the film was that it was inspired by Genzaburo Yoshino’s 1937 children’s novel “How Do You Live,” although the studio stressed that the film features a different plot.
Initial anxieties: Miyazaki reportedly expressed his anxieties regarding the film’s lack of marketing, as shared by Studio Ghibli co-founder and president Toshio Suzuki, who said: “(Director Miyazaki) said, ‘I wonder if it’ll be OK without publicity…’ He really said that. ‘I am beginning to worry. I do believe in you, Mr. Suzuki. But I’m concerned… that’s all.’”
Defending the decision, Suzuki stated, “In my opinion, in this age of so much information, the lack of information is entertainment. I don’t know if this will work. But as for me, I believe in it, so this is what I’m trying to do.”
Studio Ghibli’s success:
The studio’s 2001 film “Spirited Away
” was previously the highest-grossing film in Japan’s history with 31.68 billion yen (approximately $305 million), a record it held for 19 years until it was unseated in 2020
by “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train.” “Spirited Away” earned 1.6 billion yen (approximately 13.1 million at the time) in its first three days, which accounting for inflation is approximately 1.7 billion yen (approximately $12 million) today.
US distributor Gkids announced on July 14
that it had acquired the distribution rights for “How Do You Live in the U.S. Although no official release date has been revealed, the film is scheduled to premiere in U.S. cinemas later this year.