TOKYO — A controversial movie about teen violence scored a moderate opening weekend at the box office after exhibs ignored politicians’ pleas not to show it.
“Battle Royale” went out with a rare R-15 rating (no one under 15 admitted) on 200 screens and grossed 212 million yen ($1.88 million) over the Saturday to Sunday frame.
On the day the movie opened, a 17-year-old boy attacked commuters with a baseball bat outside a busy Tokyo commuter station, injuring eight people, one of them seriously.
It was the reaction politicians feared amid rising teen violence. The nation was stunned recently when a 17-year-old boy hijacked a bus, held a schoolgirl at knifepoint as a human shield and stabbed a women to death in a hostage standoff that was broadcast on national television.
A month later, another 17-year-old clubbed his mother to death because she would not give him pocket money.
Japanese politicians rarely comment on cinema content. But Education Minister Nobutaka Machimura met executives before “Battle Royale” opened and asked them to tone down future movies, while pols from ruling and opposition camps asked exhibs not to show the film.
Despite the warnings and poor reviews, about 900 people lined up to see the opening show at producer Toei’s main theater as stars and director Kinji Fukasaku greeted the audience. The opening also made the news as about 150 members of the media covered the screening.
The film is set in an apocalyptic future in which the country is in a state of collapse and schools are marred by uncontrolled violence. The government organizes an annual Battle Royale, in which a class is pitted against itself on an abandoned island in a game of survival.
Toei officials hope the film will make $35 million at the box office.