Welcome back to another compilation of recent – although not strictly within the last 7 days, title be damned – anime industry developments that we felt were worth highlighting, brought to you by the reliable megax. We plan to keep this infrequent column around whenever interesting pieces of info arise and seem to go by unnoticed. Appearing this time: movie budgets, idols, international business, and distribution methods. Let’s jump to our first piece of business!
Your Name’s budget and plans for recoupment
This was published last year, but it has resurfaced given the hype surrounding its home video release plans, and I figured it would be nice to talk about the budget Toho planned for Your Name. Toho expected that it would earn 1.5 billion yen at the box office after all screenings had ended. Japanese theatres take half of the box office (750 million yen in this case), so that left another 750 million for production. Marketing for the film cost 300 million, so 450 million was to be destined to produce the animation, vocal track (cast/recording time & equipment/personnel), music, and mastering. An insider said that they estimate/speculate that the amount going to the director would be about 5% of the budget, bringing Shinkai’s take at 20 million yen for working on the film (for 2 years). This amount was lower than a lot of Toho’s other projects, but they’re around normal for anime film budgets, which shows just how relatively cheap anime production is. According to our sources, your average anime film nowadays is on par with high-profile theatrical OVAs and costs around 200 million for production alone. Your Name costing slightly over twice of that fits its nature, and still puts it well below the rare exceptions by massive companies like Ghibli that can go over one billion. Either way, the film earned way above their expectations, smashing records and arriving at nearly 25 billion yen at the box office – over 16 times of their best estimate and much more than right about any anime movie. Something keeps a great record of box office records for anime films, so you can see how much they tend to earn at the box office.
This lets us talk about the price of a ticket and how much goes where. I’m going to use a concrete example: I paid 1800 yen to see Sound! Euphonium ~Welcome to the Kitauji Concert Band~ last year, which is on the higher side of ticket prices. Here’s one general example of how that money would be divided.
- 900 yen: Movix Kyoto (theatre)
- 810 yen – 630 yen: Hibike Partners (Kyoto Animation/Pony Canyon/Lantis/Rakuonsha – in that order but exact split not given, depends on distribution fee)
- 90 yen – 270 yen: Shochiku (distributor – depends on the fee charged for distribution)
There may be separate situations for small run films (purchasing screentime rather than officially distributing, or a change in how much each step gets), but this is a general example of how the mainstream film industry splits the amount that you would pay at the door for a film in Japan. However, I should also point out that most of the big movie studios also tend to own a lot of their own theatres. Toho, which not only distributed Your Name but led the committee for it, owns 64 cinemas throughout Japan through the Toho Cinemas subsidiary. People going to watch it in those locations gave a massive amount of that money to the Toho group through all parts of the tickets (theatre/distributor/top of committee). For my Euphonium example above, Movix is owned by Shochiku, so most of my ticket likely went there as well. As they’re not on the committee however, their slice would be comparatively much smaller to Toho’s extreme case with Your Name.
Comments from Lantis’s Producer/executive Shigeru Saito:
Saito went on a podcast with one of the composers of Lantis songs (notably Hare Hare Yukai) and shared some insight into the anime song industry. Let’s sum it up.
First off, the boundary between international anime business and Japanese markets is changing; proposals target not just the domestic audience at first, but also international viewers. The rule of thumb for the industry used to be that “if it sold this many discs, then it’d work out,” but now the process has changed so that they’re able to recoup funds from streaming rights (with a great focus on China) and broadcast rights, even if discs don’t sell much in particular. This doesn’t just affect streaming there; if a committee determines that “this work will be profitable even if it has to be recouped internationally,” then there’s an inclination to sell it in box sets instead. We’re seeing nearly every publisher in Japan switch to offering box sets of varying sizes for certain shows (4-episodes, 5-episodes, even 6-episode boxes), so that’s a result of not needing to sell as many singles or copies due to international right sales.
The anime music industry’s profile has also been rising over the past ten years. Before, the atmosphere was that everyone would support the giant hits like “everyone cheer on Nana Mizuki!” but now the floor has risen to make up for the insane hits dropping some. Lantis is financially supported by [email protected] and Love Live, but they’re waiting for the next big opportunity to come while continuing to work with those franchises. Live events with seiyuu are also packed with lots of customers. And most importantly, the industry is also moving to develop the international market more. There’s going to be foreign concerts and goods sold there. Saito calls this the “final adventure” for the anime music industry. We’ve already seen Lantis support the AniUta program, which will offer unlimited streaming of songs from Universal, Media Factory, Toho, Victor Entertainment, VAP, Marvelous, Pony Canyon, Flying Dog, Bushiroad, Warner Music Japan, and Lantis’s catalogs. This is expected to launch internationally later this year and will be a big way to support the music industry without having to buy CDs/mp3s.
In This Corner of the World begins digital distribution ahead of disc distribution
As mentioned earlier, most big movie studios in Japan run their own theatre chains. Those companies also often happen to publish/distribute their films on home video. That means that they have vested interests in keeping things going from theatre to home video with a digital distribution later, as a lesser priority or even a slight inconvenience. However, we do have an interesting exception this week with In This Corner of the World. Its committee wasn’t led by a big movie company, not was it headed by a video publisher. Instead, it was as follows:
- Mainichi Shinbun (Newspaper)
- AT-X (TV station)
- Cygames (Video game company/mobile game & app developer/animation studio)
- TBS Radio (Radio station in Tokyo)
- Tokyo Color Photo Wings (Designer/Publisher/Printer)
- Tokyo Theatres (Theatrical distributor)
- Tohokushinsha (Movie Studio)
- Bandai Visual (Video publisher)
- Futabasha Publishers (Publisher of original manga)
- Mac (Publicity/design/website company)
- MAPPA (Animation producer)
- Genco (Producing company; brought everyone together to make the film)
As the top interests weren’t beholden to prioritize theatrical access or home video sales, the committee could take the risk in selling it digitally prior to any home video release now that most of the theatres have stopped playing it. The committee also represents the troubled financing that this film went through; instead of a big company like Toho, Toei, or even Aniplex/Bandai, Genco’s producer Maki had to find a variety of companies that would contribute a little bit and even they had to be coerced via a huge crowdsourcing amount just to get the film off the drawing board (figuratively). The success it’s had in the Japanese box office is remarkable due to those difficulties.
I mention this as an exception to the ordinary categories. Most Japanese live action films are made by the big movie studios who want the theatre box office and home video sales. Most anime films prioritize the movie merchandise and home video sale revenue streams. This just happened to be a film that did neither and so it was able to be streamed much earlier than usual. Most films are available for streaming at a later date once theatre runs/home video sales have slowed down, so it’s not like these don’t happen – this case simply happens to be much earlier than usual.
In other words, don’t expect this to be the start of a trend; it’s just a another neat story that occurred in anime business this week. Until next time!
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