Anime and ‘Godzilla Minus One’ Push Japan’s Box Office Higher in 2023

Japan’s box office climbed 4 percent to a post-pandemic high of $1.5 billion (221.5 billion yen) in 2023, driven again by a strong slate of anime and a steady return to theaters. Hollywood films maintained the same market share of around 31 percent as the previous year, though a very weak yen reduced earnings in dollar terms.

The Japanese currency falling toward the 150-mark against the greenback means that when converted, the annual box office fell from last year’s $1.64 billion even though takings in yen climbed from 213 billion yen. Imported fare (676 films) took a total of $452 million, versus $995 million for 555 domestic productions.

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The figures were announced in Tokyo on Tuesday by the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, locally referred to as Eiren.

Topping the 2023 box office rankings was The First Slam Dunk, an anime from Toei based on a hit basketball manga with $107 million, followed by The Super Mario Bros. Movie ($95 million), and the latest anime in the Detective Conan series ($94 million). Those three titles were the only ones to surpass the locally significant 10 billion yen ($68 million) domestic blockbuster benchmark in 2023, though overall takings were second only to the all-time high of $1.77 billion (261 billion yen) in 2019.

Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron was in fourth spot, taking $58 million. Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, with $37 million, was the only other Hollywood movie to make the top 10.

Total admissions were up 2 percent to 155.5 million, with the number of screens up slightly to 3,653.

The unexpected success of Godzilla Minus One in the American market was a hot topic at the announcement event, sparking multiple questions from the local media.

Hiroyasu Matsuoka, CEO of Toho, the studio behind Japan’s most famous monster, said the film had helped group theatrical earnings top 100 billion yen ($680 million) for the first time. Toho also distributes Studio Ghibli films and the Conan series.

Godzilla Minus One has taken more than $55 million in the United States. It recently became third highest-grossing non-English-language film in the U.S. market, overtaking Oscar winner Parasite and setting multiple records such as the biggest opening weekend for a foreign film,” said Matsuoka. “This has given us great confidence in the potential for our films and IP.”

Asked about the reasons for its success, he added, “We really didn’t think it would be such a big hit, to be honest. As well the high levels of recognition for the Godzilla name, it benefited from less competition on release due to the strike in Hollywood.

“And the rise of streaming platforms has helped make global audiences more receptive to reading subtitles and watching non-English content,” Matsuoka suggested.

Fumio Yoshimura, CEO of Toei, also spoke about the strength of anime and his company’s plans to target further expansion in the global market, leveraging IP such as its Power Rangers and samurai films.

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