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China Box Office: ‘The Boy and the Heron’ Flies Past ‘Godzilla x Kong’ in $35 Million Midweek Holiday Debut

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Oscar-winning Japanese animation “The Boy and the Heron” opened its wings in mainland Chinese theaters in midweek and soared to the top of the box office.

Data from multiple local tracking sources show the Miyazaki Hayao-directed fantasy-adventure accounting for more than half of all cinema revenues on both Wednesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday it garnered $13.8 million, according to estimates from Ent Group. By 6.30pm on Thursday, ticket sales firm Maoyan was showing the title as having grown its two-day running total to RMB254 million or $35.2 million.

While films mostly open on Fridays in China, “The Boy and the Heron” was given a Wednesday outing in order to play into the three-day Qingming public holiday. The break is traditionally a time when Chinese people sweep clean the graves of their ancestors, but it has also become something of a family-oriented holiday and at least three other films released on Wednesday. According to China’s State Council, this year the holiday runs from Thursday to Saturday (April 4-6).

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” released in Chinese theaters last weekend and was the biggest opening in China by a Hollywood film this year. Shaded by “The Boy and the Heron,” it fell to second place on Wednesday, with a $5.26 million haul. Thursday’s estimated scores (measured in the early evening) suggest that “The Boy and the Heron” earned more than $22 million on its second day, while “Godzilla x Kong” added $11 million on its seventh day.

The Studio Ghibli fantasy film has not caught up with Legendary Entertainment’s clash of the monsters at the cumulative level. “Godzilla x Kong” has already notched up over $66 million in China.

But the early performance, if sustained over the weekend, suggests that China could become the Japanese film’s second biggest market. Released in July last year, “The Boy and the Heron” earned some $61 million in its Japanese home market. Released in North America in December, the film powered to a total of $46 million. (It also earned $14.8 million in South Korea, $12.3 million in France and $5.6 million in the U.K.)

While Hollywood movies have largely struggled in China since 2020, Japanese animated titles have become increasingly popular in China. Last year “Suzume” earned $114 million and “The First Slam Dunk” some $93 million.

China’s box office in 2024 is currently running 50% bigger than the North American market. At the end of March, year-to-date box office in China was $2.32 billion, according to consultancy firm Artisan Gateway. That compares with $1.47 billion so far this year in the U.S. and Canada, according to ComScore.