'How do you live?'  by Hayao Miyazaki It will be the first Ghibli film to get a simultaneous Imax release

Box Office: Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘The Boy and the Heron’ Releases Strong in Japan (Despite Lack of Marketing)

It turns out Hayao Miyazaki had nothing to worry about.

Before the release of his highly anticipated latest feature film, The boy and the heron, in Japan on Friday, the legendary animator reportedly voiced some concerns about Studio Ghibli’s unprecedented plan not to do any marketing for the film: no trailers, no TV commercials, not even a plot summary or an announced cast. Two weeks before release, Ghibli co-founder and president Toshio Suzuki revealed at an event in Tokyo Miyazaki was a little concerned about the decision not to advertise what should be his latest film. “I believe in you, Mr. Suzuki,” Miyazaki said. “But I’m worried…”

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Suzuki reportedly defended his strategy by saying, “In my opinion, in this age of so much information, lack of information is entertainment. I don’t know if this will work. But as far as I’m concerned, I believe it.”

Needless to say, Miyazaki probably feels reassured now.

The boy and the heron it earned $13.2 (1.83 billion yen) Friday through Sunday, according to ComScore. In yen, this is the largest opening in Studio Ghibli history, beating Howl’s Moving Castledebut of 1.48 billion yen in 2004 (the yen is currently trading at historic weakness against the dollar, so when it trades against dollars, Howl he actually made slightly more at $14 million). In Imax, The boy and the heron opened to $1.7 million from 44 screens, setting a new 3-day record for giant screen operator in Japan.

However, Japan is a notoriously slow-burning theatrical market, so a film’s catch and word-of-mouth tend to matter much more than its initial splash. Since its $14 million inception, Howl’s Moving Castlefor example, it eventually climbed to $190 million over a 407-day local release.

No big western outlets reviewed The boy and the heron yet, but Japan-based media described the film as an experience of “truly astounding” visual beauty and deep philosophical messages. Overall, the film has been summed up as more adult and enigmatic than much of the Ghibli catalogue, potentially requiring repeat viewings to fully appreciate.

The boy and the heron will be released in North America by specialty distributor GKIDS later this year. On the festival circuit, insiders are already talking about a possible international premiere at the upcoming Venice Film Festival, where Miyazaki’s film Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Healing (2008) e The wind rises (2013) all received their first screenings outside Japan.