"Demon Slayer" "Demon Slayer"

The pandemic-battered U.S. box office received a shot in the arm this weekend from an animated feature, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train, the smash-hit from Japan that was the highest-grossing animated feature globally in 2020.

Released by Funimation/Aniplex in the U.S. and Canada, the Haruo Sotozaki-directed Demon Slayer picked up a fantastic $19.5 million (estimated) in its debut weekend. That puts it in second-place (tied with Pokemon: The Movie 2000) for biggest domestic anime openings of all time. The top opening for an anime release in the U.S. belongs to Pokemon: The First Movie which scored $31 million back in 1999. A big difference: Demon Slayer was rated R, the first major R-rated animation release in the U.S. since 2016’s Sausage Party.

Outside of the two Pokemon films, Demon Slayer is now all but guaranteed to become the third highest-grossing anime film ever released in the United States. That’s an impressive accomplishment for an IP that debuted as a manga just five years ago.

Equally impressive, Demon Slayer topped the $8.5M launch of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon last month, making it the biggest U.S. debut for an animated feature in 2021 (so far). While it’s impossible to make a direct comparison – less theaters were open when Raya debuted and the film was also available day one for rental on Disney+ – it’s safe to say that there was far more audience enthusiasm for an import from Asia than Disney’s Southeast Asian-inspired film. A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to write that a foreign animated feature debut had topped Disney at the box office, but times are changing.

Raya was in fifth place this weekend with an estimated $1.6M for a total of $39.8M, which puts it behind even Warner Bros.’ Tom & Jerry, which has now grossed $43.4M. This is a much more direct comparison, since Tom & Jerry was available free for one month on HBO Max day-and-date with its theatrical launch.

Overall, Demon Train debuted in second place at the U.S. box office, trailing New Line/Warner Bros.’ reboot of the videogame franchise Mortal Kombat, which had $22.5M. The one-two punch of Mortal Kombat and Demon Slayer drove the domestic box office to its biggest total in over a year.

With its U.S./Canada earnings added in, Demon Slayer has now grossed $456 million worldwide. Like Ne Zha, the 2019 Chinese animated feature that grossed $742 million globally, Demon Slayer is a reminder that Hollywood is no longer the only producer of blockbuster animated features.

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