Crunchyroll is bringing Japan’s biggest box office film of the year, One Piece Film Red, to North America next month, and they’re not messing around with the film’s U.S. marketing.
Timed perfectly for the company’s New York Comic Con appearance, Crunchyroll took over Times Square over the weekend, filling many of the plaza’s dozens of screens with an impressive display of promotional materials from the film which can be seen in the below video posted by One Piece producers Toei Animation.
— Toei Animation (@ToeiAnimation) October 9, 2022
North American ticket pre-sales are now open for One Piece Film Red, which will release in theaters in the U.S. and Canada on November 4. Prior to its North American launch, Animation is Film will host the world premiere of the film’s English-language dub in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 22.
Crunchyroll is three-quarters of the way through a year that looks likely to go down in history as truly transformative for anime distribution in North America. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero ($38.1 million) and Jujutsu Kaisen 0 ($34.5 million) have been smash hits for the Sony-owned distributor, ranking as the fourth and fifth-highest grossing anime titles in North American box office history.
In fact, four of the top six highest-grossing anime titles in North America have come in the last four years, with Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train ($49.5 million) and Dragon Ball Super: Broly ($30.7 million) joining the two previously mentioned films. It seems fair to say that the $30-50 million mark is the new standard by which big-named anime features will be held going forward.
Boosting One Piece’s U.S. box office potential is the fact that this fall’s wide release calendar is exceptionally weak, and One Piece is the only wide release scheduled for the November 4 weekend. It’s also playing in IMAX and other eye-catching formats that typically boost a film’s theatrical profile. Anime films tend to do the bulk of their business during their first week in cinemas, so it’s a good thing for One Piece that there is no real competition during that window. And, unlike Jujustu Kaisen 0 and Demon Slayer the Movie before it, One Piece the franchise has a decades-long history as one of the most popular mainstream anime IPs in the U.S.
On the other hand, with such a strong history comes a high bar of entry for new fans. Will some potential ticket-buyers be scared off by the decades of One Piece content that preceded Film Red? How can Crunchyroll convince newcomers who don’t follow the show that this film is a good entry point into the franchise? Promos like the Times Square takeover will make existing fans excited, but won’t do anything to convince the average moviegoer that this is a good standalone film experience, regardless of any prior engagement with the IP.
Meanwhile, back in its domestic territory, One Piece Film Red has been Japan’s biggest box office hit of the year and now sits only 500 million yen ($3.4 million) behind Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for 10th on the country’s all-time box office list. The film has grossed 16.776 billion yen ($119.92 million) and has been Japan’s number one film for the last 10 weeks in a row.