As Chinese exhibition rebounds, it has become clear that the country will, for the first time, overtake North America as the year’s biggest box office. By some counts, it already has.
As American — and increasingly European — theaters flounder, we are approaching a milestone in animation history, too. The two highest-grossing animated features of 2020 are now all but certain to be Chinese and Japanese. This is groundbreaking: as far back as we can remember, a U.S. title has always come top.
As things stand, Jiang Ziya is topping the year’s global animation box office with a total gross of USD$236.1 million (according to Entgroup). Beijing Enlight’s mythological epic, a follow-up to last year’s breakout hit Ne Zha, took $1.7 million this weekend (its fourth).
Close behind in the global rankings is Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train, which continues its miraculous run across the sea in Japan, where it has become a full-on cultural phenomenon. The manga spin-off grossed $28.7 million in its third weekend for a cume of $150.6 million, according to its co-distributor Aniplex.
Mugen Train shows little sign of running out of steam. In a mere 17 days, it has become the tenth-highest-grossing film of all time in the country. Not only that, it has taken more than half the cume of Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, the top grosser in Japanese history. The film is also doing well for Imax, earning $1.84 million from 38 screens this weekend — a drop of only 11% from last weekend.
At this rate, we wouldn’t be the least surprised to see Mugen Train overtake Jiang Ziya. In any case, both films have outstripped the top-grossing U.S. animated film of the year, Pixar’s Onward, which was released theatrically in the U.S. on March 6 and has grossed $141.3 million; the pandemic stopped the film’s run in its tracks.
Most of the year’s other tentpoles have either been sent to streaming or delayed to next year, with only Dreamworks’s The Croods 2 still set for a November 25 theatrical release and Sony’s Connected due out “later in 2020” in some form. In these circumstances, it’s highly unlikely that either will catch up to the Asian duo.
This weekend saw a strong start for another animated film in China. Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, the latest installment in the popular franchise, took $9.6 million in its opening weekend, coming second (behind the Chinese-produced Korean War drama Sacrifice).
In North America, Jiang Ziya received a limited theatrical release on October 1. Mugen Train is due to be released early next year by Funimation and Aniplex of America. Digimon Adventure is currently available on digital rental and purchase, Blu-ray, and dvd.