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ANNECY, France — Underscoring its ambition for Mamoru Hosoda’s “The Boy and the Beast,” French studio Gaumont will release the much-awaited title on 200 screens in France on Jan. 13.

Screen count is four times the number of locations in France of Hosoda’s latest film, “Wolf Children.”

The U.S., U.K, Canada, Germany, Spain, Italy, Benelux, and Switzerland will also see the film released theatrically with the same ambition, making “The Boy and the Beast” a breakthrough film for Mamoru Hosoda, said Yohann Comte, deputy head of international sales at Gaumont, which handles international sales, after a Work in Progress screening of ‘Boy” at France’s Annecy Festival.

At the Annecy Work in Progress session, Gaumont sneak-peeked for the first time a five-minute promo of “The Boy and the Beast” — to the delight of a fan-packed auditorium.

Seji Okuda, “Boy’s” producer at Nippon Television and deputy head of international sales at Gaumont Yohann Comte talked the audience through the production.

Hosoda’s devotees present, mainly animation students, appeared to love the promo, which had echoes of “Karate Kid,” distances apart, given Hosoda’s strong auteurist visuals.

Produced by Studio Chizu and Nippon TV, Hosoda’s animated tale “Beast” is a coming-of-ager centering on lonely lad Kyuta and Kumatetsu, a lonesome beast who lives in Jutengai, an imaginary world. One day, Kyuta enters this universe and Kumatetsu becomes his master and friend.

“Wolf Children” was the second-highest grossing movie in Japan on its debut in July 2012, defeating Disney-Pixar’s “Brave,” which bowed the same date. “Children” cumed  a final $53 million in Japan.

Mamuro Hosoda is gaining increasing recognition abroad as an outstanding disciple of Hayao Miyazaki, especially after Miyazaki announced his retirement.

Gaumont has sold “The Boy and the Beast” to, of major territories, FUNimation Entertainment for the U.S., Studiocanal in the U.K., Italy’s Lucky Red, Madman in Australia and A Contracorriente in Spain. Sales were announced during the past Cannes fest.

Gaumont’s interest in Japanese animation centers on Hosoda and Studio Chizu projects, said Comte. The French company also has close connections with Nippon TV.

“France has always been a country of cinephiles and the first country in Europe to pay attention to Japanese cinema after the war,” Comte said.

He argued that there are also a lot of common features in the two cultures: a certain refinement and love for complexity, and probably a social pressure that lead people to need outlets and fantasies.

“More concretely, a lot of people grew up with the French-Japanese co-produced TV series of the ’70s and ’80s, like ‘Ulysses’ and ‘The Mysterious Cities of Gold.’ ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ partly directed by Miyazaki, was also co-produced in Europe,” Comte concluded.