Ponyo's numbers for the weekend came in late afternoon yesterday, courtesy of Box Office Mojo, and its performance continues to be solid across the board. At its current pace, it now appears likely that Spirited Away's $10 record will be broken. That's my hope, at least.
Here are the weekend numbers:
The drop in attendance has been very good, not nearly as steep as I had feared. The weekend numbers compared to Week 1 show a drop of 39.8%, 24.6%, and 33.6% respectively. I was expecting a 50% drop, however grounded those expectations are.
So now that we've made it through a couple weekends, we can take the good with the bad. I still feel Ponyo's performance has been a disappointment. Given the attention and the hype paid by Disney, given the praises from critics, despite the news buzz from having Hayao Miyazaki personally appear in the US, barely squeaking out $10 million cannot be seen as a success.
Many questions are raised that will have to be addressed. Is Studio Ghibli still ahead of its time in America? Is widespread success even possible? Are audiences too prejudiced and afraid of foreign movies? How deep does this nation's xenophobic streak run? Does the economy play a factor? Does the home market play a factor? Should Disney have pushed harder? Was there a fan backlash over Disney's remixing of the Ponyo theme? How strongly did the anime fan community support Ponyo, or do they consider Miyazaki "too mainstream" to touch? Can animation ever truly be respected in this country? Is it possible for hand-drawn animation to succeed without strictly following the Disney fairy tale formula? Miyazaki's name is well-known, but is that support shallow? Are the stupids too fearful of anything that's different, anything they haven't been programmed to accept? Is America doomed to a future of nothing but movies packed with explosions and lightning fast cuts? Is Michael Bay the one who's really right all along?
I have nothing but questions. But that's me.
Feel free to take away the positives from Ponyo's performance. It is on track to surpass Spirited Away's record at the box office. The foreign animated movies that top the box office records are all cynical toy commercials - Pokemon, Digimon. Miyazaki's movies are the most successful outside that commercial cash scheme. And it should be noted that foreign films barely perform at all in the United States. $10 million for a foreign movie, even one that has been given a Hollywood-dubbed soundtrack, is a great victory. The most successful foreign films have all been martial arts action movies - Crouching Tiger, Jet Li, Jackie Chan.
There's going to be a lot to debate over this issue. And these questions are not going to be resolved anytime soon. Might as well just head down to the theater and catch Ponyo one more time, while you still can. You never know when (or if) the next Studio Ghibli movie will play in your town.