Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F’s event-style theatrical release is being hailed as a mold-breaking triumph of film distribution.

American distributor Funimation, in partnership with Fathom Events (which is owned by theater chains AMC, Cinemark and Regal), rolled out the film on Tuesday for a one-week theatrical run, and the film has grossed over $4 million in its first three days. Amazingly, this was achieved with just one showtime per day at a relatively modest 900 theaters.

Dragon Ball ranked in fifth place at the American box office on Tuesday and Wednesday. According to industry reports, that’s the first time an event-style release has cracked the top 10 and its per-screen average is the best among all movies currently in theaters.

On Thursday, the Tadayoshi Yamamuro-directed film dropped to 246 U.S. locations to make room for Hollywood’s new releases, while adding 54 locations in Canada. It still grossed an impressive $510,000 for a $1,629 screen average.

Funimation founder Gen Fukunaga explained to Deadline how the film was marketed to a niche audience rather than the typical Hollywood-style blanket marketing:

“We did a lot of grassroots efforts. Our budget was very low compared to Hollywood standards,” said Fukunaga who would not disclose the marketing budget. “We did careful media placement and didn’t do much TV. We bought a small flight of commercials which appeared on the Toonami block of Adult Swim.” He said they did a full court PR push and Internet promotional effort to Dragon Ball Z and anime fans. “We reached out to those who influence (Internet culture) to promote to their audiences. We were able tap existing fans through their channels and, in some cases, reached millions of their followers. We had a retail partner, Hot Topic, which did in-store promotions” that helped to get the word out. They also promoted Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F at Comic-Con and anime conventions.

The film’s limited engagement ends on August 12. It will enter the list of top 10 theatrical anime releases in the United States, marking the first time that an independent distributor has achieved that distinction. Here’s the current top 10:

top10_animereleases

On Wednesday, Lionsgate launched Aardman’s stop-motion Shaun the Sheep Movie into U.S. theaters. The film landed in ninth place, grossing $852K from 2,320 theaters. Shaun had been projected to make around $8 million in its first five days, but this disappointing launch puts that figure in doubt.

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