Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” has become an unexpected box office success.
The Japanese drama about a petty thief who adopts a young girl has earned critical raves and picked up the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. That translated into commercial success for Magnolia, the indie distributor that’s been overseeing the film’s rollout. “Shoplifters” passed the $2 million mark on Thursday, making it one of the highest-grossing foreign language releases of 2018. “Fantastic Woman” also passed $2 million at the box office, though it had a limited release in 2017 in order to qualify for Oscars. Netflix’s “Roma” has reportedly done strong business in its limited theatrical run, but the streaming service does not disclose grosses, so it’s impossible to know how much money it has generated.
“We knew from festival screenings that audiences really loved the movie, so we just trusted that if we made it available people would seek it out,” said Neal Block, head of distribution at Magnolia.
“Shoplifters” is first non-anime Japanese film to cross $2 million since Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran” came out in 1985. That film went on to gross $3.6 million.
“Shoplifters” debuted in five theaters in New York, L.A. and San Francisco on November 23 and has been quietly expanding as its awards heat has built. The film is currently in 100 theaters and Block thinks the footprint could expand to 150. A lot will depend on whether or not “Shoplifters” receives a best foreign language film nod next Tuesday when Oscar nominations are unveiled.
Awards attention aside, “Shoplifters'” box office performance is remarkable at a time when audiences are steering clear of foreign language films.
“Every year it seems harder and harder to get people to see these types of films,” said Block.