The Boy and the Heron surpasses Spirited Away record at UK Box Office

Box Office success continues for the newest Ghibli title, originally released in Japan with only one poster for promotion.

3 January 2024


The Boy and the Heron has beaten the 2001 classic Spirited Away to become the biggest Studio Ghibli film at the UK Box Office. It’s now the second-highest UK opening of all time for a Japanese film; the first being the first theatrical Pokémon release Pokémon: The First Movie.

Previously thought to be Hayao Miyazaki’s final film before retirement, The Boy and the Heron also reached No 1 at the US Box Office on its opening weekend in December eclipsing The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.

The Ghibli title was setting records even before release, with producer Toshio Suzuki suggesting that it could be the most expensive Japanese film ever made.

In 2003, Spirited Away was awarded Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards. “It made Japanese animation a more global film genre rather than very niche,” Dr. Shiro Yoshioka, lecturer in Japanese Studies at Newcastle University, told Time in 2021. While Spirited Away received breakaway acclaim, thanks in part to distribution by Disney and Pixar’s John Lasseter, Ghibli was not yet the household name it is today, taking a respectable but humble $10 million at the US Box Office.

In comparison, Ghibli had secure audiences for its seven-year project The Boy and the Heron long before its release. So much so that it launched in Japan in summer 2023 with only a single poster used for promotional material.

The Boy and the Heron opens on Imax in the UK on 5 January.

Studio Ghibli: The Boy and the Heron (Copyright © Studio Ghibli, 2023)

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Studio Ghibli: The Boy and the Heron (Copyright © Studio Ghibli, 2023)

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Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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