Film scores $14.8 mil over three-day weekend

TOKYO — “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,” the newest feature toon by anime auteur Hayao Miyazaki, scored $14.8 million on nearly 1.25 million admissions over the three-day weekend of July 19-21.

This opening BO was 96.6 percent of the similar three-day holiday bow of “Sprited Away,” the 2001 Miyazaki toon that finished with $285 million — an all-time BO record in Japan. Also, admissions were 101.4 percent of former pic’s opening total. “Spirited,” however, was released on only 336 screens, compared with 481 for “Ponyo” — another record.

The pics is targeted at primarily at young children with their families, but large numbers of young women and dating couples also joined the lines.

Distrib Toho did not release a day-by-day BO breakdown, but a company rep said that pic earned “nearly ten billion yen ($9.4 million)” on Saturday and Sunday. This compares with $13.9 million on 448 screens for the opening weekend of “Howl’s Moving Castle,” the previous Miyazaki pic, which finished its first run in 2005 with $184 million.

Also, the last feature toon by Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, the 2006 “Tales from Earthsea,” grossed $8.4 million in its opening frame. Helmed by Miyazaki’s son Goro, it ended with $71.8 million, topping the BO for the year.

After the pic’s release, its theme song, penned by frequent Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi, zoomed to number two on the Oricon pop chart, Japan’s equivalent of the Billboard chart. Pic producer Toshio Suzuk icommented that “If the teme song is a hit, the movie is also a hit,” which was certainly the case with past Miyazaki smashes and also seems to be true for “Ponyo.”

Toho has refused to project a final total for “Ponyo,” but the pic is skedded to be in the theaters until the end of the year, giving it plenty of time to surpass “Tales” — and become the number one Japanese pic of the year.

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