Miyazaki film becomes all-time leader

TOKYO — Japan has a new No. 1 movie at the domestic box office.

The animated feature “Mononoke Hime” (The Phantom Princess) has passed “Nankyoku Monogatari” (Antarctica) to become the all-time leader among Japanese films. “Antarctica,” produced by Fuji Television Network Inc., held the record for about 14 years, with film rentals of 5.9 billion yen ($50 million) since it was released in 1983.

According to Toho Co., the distributor for “Princess,” the animated picture has taken in $88.8 million as of Aug. 24. It has also attracted some 7.7 million viewers. “Antarctica” drew 7.62 million viewers.

Precise film rental figures for “Princess” are not yet available, but Toho said “Princess” passed “Antarctica” last week to claim the No. 1 domestic slot. Japanese rankings are based on film rentals, the distributor’s share of box office grosses.

“E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” is the No. 1 movie among foreign and domestic films in Japan, with rentals of $78.8 million.

“Princess” opened at about 250 theaters nationwide July 12, the same weekend as “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” Toho has worked to increase the number of theaters carrying “Princess,” and the movie is slated to run through the fall.

The animated feature, written and directed by Japan’s premier animator, Hayao Miyazaki, is set in Japan several hundred years ago. A village using steel for weapons sets off a chain of events threatening the region’s pristine nature. Humans, animals and natural spirits battle for power and preservation of the surroundings.

Miyazaki’s pix do better

Miyazaki films almost always do better at the Japanese box office than animated offerings from Walt Disney. This summer, the only film even close to “Princess” at the Japanese B.O. has been “Lost World.” Japanese B.O. receipts for the Disney animated feature “Hercules” have been negligible.

The only question that remains is if “Princess” will become the first Japanese film ever to break the $100 million box office mark. After its run in Japan, Disney will take “Princess” to five countries, including the U.S. Disney reached an agreement with Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co., parent company of Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, to distribute eight of its animated features worldwide via Buena Vista.

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