Two big shockers occurred at the MLK weekend box office: No one expected Universal/BVI/Blumhouse’s Glass to cave in from its $60 million-plus projections down to $47M over four days, and no one saw the surprise success of Funimation’s Dragon Ball Super: Broly coming with a six-day start of $22.7M per ComScore.
Worldwide, the anime film currently counts $88.6M, with 74% of that number fueled by Fox International’s release in 18 markets. Funimation secured domestic rights to Broly, a Toei Animation production, from Fox, which traditionally has handled the brand abroad on the big screen.
Japanese anime distributor Funimation (in which Sony took a $143M majority stake in July 2017) has released Dragon Ball movies before, but not like this. Its August 2015 release of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F only played at 913 locations at its widest and during the course of two weeks and took in $8M. Broly stateside is poised to ultimately beat the pic’s Japanese gross of $33.3M, which is phenomenal.
What changed here with the theatrical release of this recent Dragon Ball title?
First for fans, Broly is the first new Dragon Ball storyline from original creator Akira Toriyama in more than 18 years, a key reason we’re seeing a fervent response here. The film’s launch has been further propped by the return of the Dragon Ball franchise to TV over the last three years with Dragon Ball Super airing on Cartoon Network via Funimation.
“What you’re seeing is people who watched the original Dragon Ball series and sharing it with their children,” said Mitchel Berger, VP Distribution and Sales at Funimation. “There’s a multi-generational appeal at work here for the franchise.”
“Fans are seeing the movie three, four, five and six times and posting pictures on social media,” Funimation CMO Geetanjali Dhillon told Deadline today. “The fan base is truly driving this forward.”
One fan, to the right, watched Broly eight times.
What has impressed rival studios is the hybrid distribution strategy executed by Funimation: In some markets, Broly is playing as an event, in others it’s a traditional theatrical release with several showtimes at a particular theater. On its opening day –when there were no K-12 schools on winter break– Broly bowed at 1,260 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, boosted by 180 PLF screens and about 57 Imax hubs. Cinemark XD was part of that footprint. With Glass on its heels, Broly shed those PLF and Imax screens after its opening day and varied its theater count daily — its current location count is about 470. Broly led all films Wednesday with a $7M opening day, and on Thursday too with $3.3M. To give you an idea of how strong Broly‘s grosses were Thursday: Glass previews only made $400K more than the anime title with $3.7M.
In coming away from Resurrection F, Funimation studied the rabid Dragon Ball fanbase, market by market, and in prepping the launch of Broly drilled down to see where an event release (the pic playing one or two times a day) or traditional worked best. It wasn’t a straight cities-versus-suburbs formula.
“It was a way we could work with exhibitors so that they could scale up showtimes when appropriate based on demand,” said Berger about Broly’s hybrid theatrical release.
In regards to the multiple touch points that worked when it came to marketing Broly, Funimation launched the trailer at San Diego Comic-Con last July in Hall H, and also played it to fans at New York Comic-Con. Dragon Ball fans were further stoked by Snapchat filters. Goku, the main hero of Dragon Ball, also secured his own balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. RelishMix reports the viral rate of Broly fan-made and original online videos have been huge at 41:1, well above a family animated pic’s 34:1 rate.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly is the 20th film in the anime franchise. Pic follows Goku and Vegeta, who are Saiyans (aliens). They come into battle with Broly, a Saiyan warrior unlike any fighter they’ve faced before.
This week, event-style screens will continue to play Broly. Stateside, some rivals think it could make $50M, and a $100M-plus worldwide haul is certain.