The drama has surpassed the huge number taken by Kore-eda’s 2013 hit Like Father, Like Son, according to distributor Gaga, and the film now ranks seventh among all releases in the territory this year, moving ahead of Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One and sitting just behind The Boss Baby and Avengers: Infinity War. After two weeks at number one in the weekly charts it is currently sitting second behind newcomer Solo: A Star Wars Story.
More than 2.6M people have flocked to see the socially conscious picture about an impoverished family who make ends meet by running petty scams and take in a child they find on the street. It’s a remarkable achievement for an art-house movie: indeed it is the best performance by a Japanese live action film so far this year and the best performance by a Japanese drama in many years. The pic has taken twice the box office of blockbusters such as Deadpool 2 and Black Panther, which played on twice the number of screens.
Japan, a big local market, has a strong history of family dramas and auteur Kore-eda has a history of hitting home with audiences but the box office tends to be dominated by anime titles and Hollywood fare. The bittersweet fable’s crossover appeal can in part be put down to its themes which question the nature of the family unit in today’s Japan and offer a critique of labor conditions and the state’s welfare infrastructure.
Surprisingly, Kore-eda’s similarly well-received 2013 drama Like Father, Like Son was overlooked by Japan’s Oscar selectors. It will be interesting to see whether the filmmaker has more luck this time. The film’s run has not been without controversy following speculation that Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe isn’t a fan and the fact Kore-eda turned down an invitation to celebrate the film at the culture ministry.
Kore-eda regulars Lily Franky and Kirin Kiki are among the cast of Shoplifters, which Magnolia will release stateside. Wild Bunch handles sales.