‘Pacific Rim’ Fails to Wow Japanese Audiences

Brad Pitt's 'World War Z' topples Del Toro's Monster-Robot Mashup

TOKYO — In what was supposed to be one of its friendliest foreign markets, Japan, “Pacific Rim” ended its opening weekend, August 10-11, with a so-so sixth rank on the box office chart.

The Guillermo del Toro robots-versus-monsters epic, inspired by Japanese kaiju (monster) pics, scored $3.04 million from 134,506 admissions.

Meanwhile the other big Hollywood opener, “World War Z,” earned $3.38 million for the number two slot, selling 236,910 tickets.

SEE ALSO: “Elysium” Is Latest Hollywood Original to Flounder

The Hayao Miyazaki-directed toon “The Wind Rises” won its fourth weekend in a row, boosting its total to $57 million. For the year to date, this is second only to “Monsters University,” with a total of $68 million on 4.5 million admissions.

Prior to the opening of “World War Z,” both Brad Pitt and partner Angelina Jolie made the PR rounds in Japan. “Pacific Rim” helmer Guillermo del Toro and star Rinko Kikuchi also appeared before the fans, but local coverage centered on the charming nine-year-old Mana Ashida, who has a supporting role in the pic.

But neither Ashida nor Kikuchi have the star power of Pitt. Also, their pic lacked the sort of franchise branding that powered the many knock-offs and spin-offs of the original “Godzilla” (1954) to B.O. heights in Japan, until the series finally began to flag.

The last “Godzilla” pic, “Godzilla: Final Wars”(2004) finished with a mediocre $13 million at the Japanese BO and producer Toho has no immediate plans to make another, though it is distribbing the Hollywood “Godzilla” reboot that Gareth Edwards is helming and Warner and Legendary Pictures are producing. Release is skedded for May, 2014.

The okay performance of “Pacific Rim” in Japan stands in contrast to its powerful showing in China. There it held on to its number one spot for the second week, taking $33.9 million despite strong competition from local franchise movie “Tiny Times 2.0.” That lifted its cumulative total to $79.5 million.

Budgeted at nearly $200 million, “Pacific Rim” has earned $344 million worldwide.

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  1. Selvokaz says:

    This is kind of inaccurate, look at their own figures. 6th and 2nd place only had a earning difference of about 384,000.. That’s not a huge margin, and definitely not one to go making claims that it failed to wow Japanese audiences, consider what it grossed. Of it’s entirety in terms of playdates, there were people going back to watch the film as much as 6 times or more. It’s also funny that several other websites say the exact opposite about it reception in foreign markets especially Japan’s.

    However, websites can mislead, and news sites can grossly over inflated the truth in order to garner more views, click bait I think is the term the kids use these days. However a quick search on various social media outlets and you can see the film has a huge following overseas, with many fans citing how many times they bought tickets to it, or purchased the dvd when it came out, not to mention a virtual landfill of fan made works from toys, comics, fan fictions and more.

  2. Geo says:

    Hellboy 3

  3. Peter H says:

    Minifig, you need to appreciate you are reading Variety – an INDUSTRY website. Not a website for fanboys, or pedants. It’s for people IN the business. Variety’s abbreviations and vernacular are industry-specific, and have been used for decades if not longer. Business = Biz. Audience = auds etc etc….. it wont be changing because a few johnny-come-latelys suddenly start reading Variety because it’s no longer behind a paywall.

    • JC says:

      Yes, now that you mention it, i just realized that Variety was an Industry magazine. I used to read it at school. Unfortunately, lately it looks more like a gossip site or worse yet, a blog.

  4. Minifig says:

    It’s “Audiences”, not “auds”, and “Scheduled”, not “Skedded”. “Distribbing”? What the hell kind of language is this? Did this person pass a journalism degree or are they just making up words for the sheer fact of being lazy? My ex’s three year old son could write better in their sleep. Variety. Fix your journalist, they seem to be broken.

    • There is a short-hand Variety has used since time in memorium to quickly pass along information, much like what is used nowadays on Twitter and other social websites which is thought of as “slang” and variations thereof. As mentioned, Variety (and Variety.com) is “industry” news with unique jargon, not unlike what we find in the practice of law referred to as “legalese”.

      Variety.com is an information (not a fan) website; and thus it will remain.

    • HunterCarlisle says:

      Here, Minifig. This should help you get up to speed.

      http://variety.com/static-pages/slanguage-dictionary/

      (I used to be in the same boat as you—Variety’s language seems silly to the uninitiated.)

  5. Haha! Variety keeps finding anyway they can to speak negative about Pacific Rim. First off,this is more WB marketing failure for promotion/release date of the film. But why doesn’t Variety post that it is on pace for 110 million in China (and if WB’s are wise they should request an extension as it is doing really well over there) and PR may cross 100 million in China in it’s first 3 weeks before the U.S. does since its July 12th opening. I don’t see an article for that positive PR box office news?!

    Now when it comes to Japan it is being reviewed favorably by audiences (4 stars to 3 stars for WWZ) on Yahoo Japan which is the #1 website used. So word of mouth may boost the coming weeks for PR in Japan. But again WB’s marketing for this movie has been riddled with mistakes. Methinks they got in in for Legendary and Tull,but who cares Legendary is with Universal come next year and I think Pacific Rim goes with him. Back to Japan…

    1.) WB’s put Pacific Rim in between the release of two big “western” stars tentpole films. Depp’s Lone Ranger released a week before PR and Pitt’s WWZ released the same weekend as PR. Duh?! Japan will flock to most big U.S. stars films like lemmings usually,so it was dumb to release the movie between the Depp & Pitt films as those two are very popular over there.

    2.) Rinko Kikuchi is not popular in Japan for whatever reason. Scuttlebutt from the Kotaku blog revealed that the Japanese audiences did not like Rinko in Babel as they saw her Oscar nominated performance in that film as offensive. Plus they are very fickle with homegrown TV/film stars and I guess Rinko doesn’t play the “publicity game” in Japan like most stars do. But Mana Ashida (young Mako Mori) is very popular there.

    Bottom line. Considering Pacific Rim has no stars,is not a sequel/reboot and is not a first release of a “brand awareness” franchise it’s box office totals are doing just fine worldwide. Where are the constant Variety updates on these big summer films that did not do well domestically and/or internationally in comparison to their budgets – Lone Ranger,After Earth,R.I.P.D,White House Down? *crickets*

  6. It all comes down to how much Pacific Rim’s unlisted advertising budget was.

  7. Travis says:

    Wether a movie does well or not in a country is dependent on a variety of factors. It’s entirely possible that 1. the 1998 mega dump that Roland Emmerich took on the Godzilla franchise may have left many Japanese fans dismayed at the idea of an American “kaiju” film 2. Japan is still living with the fear of damage from the Fukushima disaster, and recently observed the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As such, it’s understandable that people wouldn’t really be in the mood for a big destruction movie.

  8. Sam says:

    Variety – what is up with your hatred for this movie? Article after article has been negative. It’s unreal. you projected week after week that it wouldn’t do well, gave it a bad review despite the positive cinema score and then questioned whether del Toro was overrate. And yet when it crushes in China there’s radio silence but it’s covered every where else. Seriously, what is the deal? it was one of my favorite movies this summer. Also, “SKEDDED”?????

  9. Willy Wonka says:

    This article is on Reddit and the top comment is about how terribly the English language has been butchered. I will now forever remember that Variety makes up words because they don’t know words like “scheduled” and “distributed” already exist. Or maybe they do but they don’t have a copyright on it so they use their own proprietary language.

  10. manigordo says:

    Forget Japan. The movie was advertised. Besides; what about word of mouth? There should be no excuse other than that the ingrates just didn’t wanted to see a good “japanese mecha kaiju” movie that wasn’t actually from Japan. China’s the future anyhow nowadays. It’s paradigms are finally starting to pay off. Australia and Japan should be utterly destroyed in the sequel…

  11. Thanks to Fukushima, they’re just waiting on the real thing.

  12. Byron H,THE JEDI says:

    Its too bad that the Japanese audiences did not seem to take to this movie,but hopefully overtime they will slowly but surely discover the “epic-ness” (my words) that is Pacific Rim,because IMO,this was the best movie of the summer of 2013,with Man Of Steel,coming in a very close second,The Wolverine was a good time as well.

  13. Steve says:

    Strange article. Apparently the tickets for Pacific Rim are $22.60 each but the World War Z tickets are only $14.26?

    • I was just assuming that more people went to see WWZ in the daytime, if their pricing is done similar to U.S. theaters. I’ve never looked into Japanese theatrical economics to know for sure, but I assume that Variety’s numbers are provided by the studios, who probably have imperfect ways of counting these things but little reason to lie about it.

  14. EVA Unit 00 says:

    That’s because Japan knows this movie “borrows” heavily from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

  15. Kaiju Cowboy says:

    I don’t know the inside story but from what I’ve read and from comments like the guy in Japan in this thread, I think it’s clear that Warner Bros totally dumped Pacific Rim because its pact with Legendary was ending and their relationship had soured.

    Shame on you, Warner Bros. Pacific Rim is a fantastic popcorn film and a labor of love from Del Toro and crew. I’m not saying it should have done Avengers numbers, but it deserved more marketing money than it got. It could have been a four-film franchise but now it’s an industry joke.

    It’s possible that a big star could have helped box-office, but every month we get the story of how A-list stars no longer mean anything at the box-office. And there’s tons of examples of franchises that flourished without huge star names.

  16. Bruce Banner says:

    I guess there weren’t enough tentacles if you know what I mean…..

  17. japanese people actually like good movies. surprise!!!

  18. Michael says:

    not sure about the math…according to this article PR had an avg ticket price of $22.60, vs a WWZ avg ticket price of $14.27. Both films are in 3D.

  19. Zach Taub says:

    Seriously? I went to see it today at Roppongi Hills, and the theatre was packed!!

  20. The Kingslayer says:

    China>Japan

  21. ErickSDesign says:

    How old are you? 13?? Making up words… I hope they’re not paying you for this writing.. If so.. They’re paying too much. This article is pure $#!t. Written like someone who forgot how to communicate without the veils of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. #Hashtag #Burn #LearnToWrite #FindANewDayJob

  22. Dan Koelsch says:

    “Auds”, “distribbing”, and “skedded”? Really? Is this journalism or a text message?

  23. Sam says:

    I live in Japan and work at a University here, it’s a University of Technology, almost all male and almost all interested in robots/electronics and sci-fi movies (Gundam, pla-model etc.) However not one of my students had even heard of Pacific Rim before I told them about it, after showing them the trailer (Japanese Version) they showed some interest, but seriously nobody had heard of it at all. I live in a fairly rural prefecture but we still have a large population (around 800,000) and I didn’t see even one advertisement, poster or other piece of PR outside of the movie theater itself. I went on the opening night to the main movie theater in the prefecture and there were 8 people in the showing. So yeah maybe they covered Tokyo with their tour but it seems like the rest of Japan had no clue. I personally love the film and I really think it IS a great tribute to classic Japanese monster movies but if nobody knows it exists you can’t expect a big opening weekend. So I think whoever was doing PR has some questions to answer.

    (World War Z by contrast had regular TV spots posters everywhere and yeah admittedly Brad Pitt can’t of hurt, but the difference in PR was not even close. Again I can only speak for my prefecture here.)

  24. cj says:

    Auds? Skedded? Distribbing? Did you write this on your phone?

  25. Jack says:

    This makes sense. Japan with it’s long history of Monster flicks on similar scale wouldn’t find this as intense as other nations might. With the origin of that type of movie mostly being japan (few very early american movie predate but not important). It would make sense that most people would see it as “Oh, another monster movie, whoopty-do.” similarly to how american’s would see let’s say Fast Car’s kind movie in the US.

  26. Very interesting to see that it hasn’t done so well in Japan. I wasn’t expecting PR to hit it off with the Chinese, and I wasn’t expecting merely “mediocre” in Japan. It’ll be good to see how much money it makes overall – it’s a shame it has been such a flop, considering it’s one of the most original blockbusters of recent years, and a damn good one at that.

    • Parished says:

      Considering that currently Pacific Rim has made almost $300million total (domestic and international) compared to its $190million production budget, “flop” isn’t really a word that can be used to describe it. It’s not a runaway hit, but it’s leagues away from some movies whose totals never even broke past their production budget.

  27. John Franson says:

    Very perplexing. Doubly so, the contrast with the China B.O.

  28. It’s nice that the article does put the performance in context with the other big Hollywood release. It seems the marker generally in Japan is quite small.

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