Author J.K. Rowling attends the premiere of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – a movie adapted from one of her books – in New York.  Photo: AFP
Author J.K. Rowling attends the premiere of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – a movie adapted from one of her books – in New York. Photo: AFP

If the question is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, then the answer is: everywhere! The UK-produced adaptation of the Harry Potter spin-off nested in the number one spot across Asian, with Japan feeding the J.K. Rowling-inspired behemoth US$15.5 million, South Korea providing US$24.8 million and China generating a massive US$40.3 million. This meant that the outsider usurped local favorites in both China and Japan, and acted as a block for the latest South Korean release.

Although evicted from the top spot by Fantastic Beasts, anime phenomenon Your Name still performed well in Japan. Reaching cumulative takings of US$173.7 million, it passed Princess Mononoke as the sixth most successful film in Japan’s history and should take fifth spot from Howl’s Moving Castle (US$177.3 million U.S.) by next week.

While Japan’s other new releases – Toei’s Shippu Rondo, featuring Abe Hiroshi, and Kadokawa’s theatrical version of TV animation Fleet Girls Collection – marked their debuts in the fourth and fifth slots, respectively, it was the rise and rise of In This Corner of the World to sixth place that raised eyebrows. Directed by former Studio Ghibli scriptwriter Katabuchi Sunao, this 1940s Hiroshima-set movie improved 111% on its tenth slot debut last week by appealing to a more mature demographic than the typical anime product. The older generation of movie-goers, intent of avoiding the weekend rush, is proving a boon to mid-week traffic at Japan’s theaters.

Japan was not the only market impacted by animation. Disney’s Polynesian fantasy Moana rode a wave of one million admissions to reach a US$12.1 million cumulative gross in its initial splash in China. While Moana swamped I Am Not Madame Bovary, which has quickly fallen to third place with a total income of US$47.9 million, Feng Xiaogang’s film did keep its edge over the 20th movie in the Japanese anime Detective Conan franchise. Detective Conan: The Darkest Nightmare was probably intended for greater success than the US$3.2 million and the number four slot it reached.

Further down the Sino box office top ten, Min and Max – a Chinese romantic comedy animation about vertically-challenged high school lovers – reached the less than dizzying peak of US$0.5 million dollars at the box office.

Holding its own in the Middle Kingdom’s middle ground was Ringo Lam’s Hong Kong action movie Sky on Fire. Starring Daniel Wu and Chang Hsiao-chuan, this bullet-and-car-chase frenzy about a high-class security agent (Wu) protecting stem cell researchers from unscrupulous profiteers raked in US$3.8 million in the mainland market.

Trailing the 44 per cent stranglehold Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them had on the South Korean market was domestic newcomer My Annoying Brother, which accumulated a respectable US$7.1 million U.S. This comedy drama about a jailbird (Cho Jung-seok) who talks his way out of prison so he can take care of the blind brother (Do Kyung-soo) who hates him took up 38 per cent of the local market on the strength of the TV popularity of its lead actors.

Also in the South Korean top ten, Japanese anime Gamba – about a feisty mouse – occupied the weekend’s number nine slot, despite the comings and goings of bigger beasts (Fantastic or otherwise). Disney and Japanese animators don’t entirely have Asia sewn up, though, as was evidenced by the US$219,904 taken over the weekend by a 2014 German production about a science-savvy rabbit and a 12-year-old boy, Nano, who are miniaturised and traverse the body of Nano’s grandfather in order to save his life. A smaller success, sure, but when it comes to animation the market is broader than you might think.

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