Hayao Miyazaki's record-breaking Japanese animated hit, Spirited Away, received a strong reception in South Korea and its capital city of Seoul at the weekend which could see it becoming one of the biggest Japanese successes ever in the country.
The film had to settle for second place in the Seoul chart behind fellow opener, local title Champion - which showed greater strength in South Korea as a whole ($4.2m) than in the capital. However Spirited Away, distributed by BVI, sold 75% of its available seats in Seoul grossing $752,000 from 35 screens and a mighty screen average of $20,500. This compares to Champion's 54% of seats sold at 60 screens in the capital where it grossed $1.3m for an average of $15,720.
This performance puts Spirited Away in with a decent chance of breaking the record set by Love Letter in 1999, which remains the most successful Japanese release in Seoul to date (see chart below). The opening weekend admissions (134,849) alone for Spirited Away out-performed the total admissions of 2001's best-selling Japanese film in Seoul - My Neighbour Totoro (123,100 admissions).
In South Korea Spirited Away grossed $1.5m in four days from 270,196 admissions. This puts it well ahead of Disney's Monsters, Inc. which opened in December 2001 to the tune of $707,000 (135,982 admissions). In comparison to Miyazaki's film Monsters, Inc. sold 62% of its available seats in Seoul on opening weekend and claimed $403,000 from 77,532 admissions at 33 screens - an average of $9,700.
Of course as a fantasy title Spirited Away, as well as all the films currently on release in South Korea, could be heavily impacted by next week's release of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones.
Spirited Away is now the fifth highest grossing animated film internationally having surpassed Toy Story 2's $240m. The four positions ahead of it are filled by Disney titles: The Lion King ($459m), Aladdin ($285m), Monsters, Inc. ($267m) and Tarzan ($264m). It also stands at number 17 in the top 20 worldwide animated chart despite having yet to open in the US where the 16 titles ahead of it all performed well. Spirited Away takes its North American bow on Sept 20.
The Japanese animated fantasy owes this success to a phenomenal run in its homeland of Japan last year when it grossed over $230m (Y30bn), although it has also seen 1,227,357 admissions after 12 weeks in France (equivalent to $6.4m) where it is distributed by Gaumont Buena Vista International, and $3.3m in Hong Kong for Intercontinental Films. It launches in Spain in August.
TOP TEN JAPANESE FILMS IN SEOUL
Title (Release date) Total Seoul Admissions
1 Love Letter (Nov 11, 1999) 645,615
2 Bayside Shakedown (July 22, 2000) 300,767
3 Shall We Dance' (May 13, 2000) 300,169
4 Samurai Fiction (Feb 19, 2000) 224,256
5 Poppoya: Railroad Man (Feb 4, 2000) 219,327
6 Pokemon 2000 (Dec 23, 2000) 185,292
7 April Story (Apr 8, 2000) 161,423
8 Empire Of The Senses (Apr 1, 2000) 141,115
9 Spirited Away (June 28, 2002) 134,849*
10 Ring 2 (July 29, 2000) 128,521
* Figures for four days on release only.