2019 was a big year for animated movies, but 2020 could be even bigger


Anime has long been relegated to home media releases in the West, with most films reaching US streaming services and DVD shelves rather than theaters. While some have been screened at conventions, it is rare to see an animated film on the big screen. That changed after Dragon Ball Z Battle of the Gods, which has been a great success in theaters, $ 2.5 million in gross receipts in its limited theatrical broadcast. Since then, animated films have been shown more and more in American theaters.

Among those animated film releases last year were entries into long-standing anime franchises such as Dragon Ball Super: Broly, Fate / stay night: Heaven’s Feel II, KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! Legend of the Crimson and One piece: stampede. In addition, original productions such as Promare have become smash hits thanks to theatrical releases. These limited western series proved to the world that anime has an audience that will go to theaters to see movies, and with the US release of Alter with you, it is possible that 2020 will continue the current trend.


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Alter with you

Makoto Shinkai is one of the biggest names in anime right now. His films have received praise from audiences and critics, with your name notably by becoming the highest-grossing animated film ever produced. Alter with you had plenty to do, but audiences still flocked to see how Shinkai could keep up with the success of his previous film.

Alter with you premiered in Japan on July 19, 2019, but was only released in US theaters on January 17, 2020. The film was screened a few months earlier in order to be Oscar-eligible, although it was not released. have not received an appointment. All the same, Alter with you attracted $ 7.55 million in its limited theatrical run, which is astounding given that it owes its success to word of mouth and Shinkai’s reputation alone.


The streaming vs. cinemas conflict

While Alter with youThe success of the US box office proves that animated films have theatrical appeal, a growing number of major streaming releases cast doubt on whether anime theatrical productions will continue to grow.

Dragon Quest: Your Story is an intense film adaptation of the popular animated film Dragon Quest series of games. The film is now available on Netflix to stream after not receiving any theatrical releases. Netflix has distributed several animated films in the West, but due to the platform’s model, these rarely hit theaters. Same Pokémon the Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution, the latest entry in the Pokémon franchise, will not hit theaters and will air on Netflix instead. Since many previous Pokémon films have been successful in theaters, the film’s lack of theatrical release is noticeable.


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The two western companies specializing in anime distribution are Funimation and GKIDS, which have enjoyed great success over the years. While Netflix won’t help bring the anime to the big screen for American audiences, these two studios will only continue with this method of distribution. And 2020 is already shaping up to be big for them.

Successful franchises

The next big anime release in theaters in the West will be My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising. Following its 2019 release in Japanese theaters, the film is slated for North America on February 26. This new entry in the incredibly successful shonen anime series is something exciting, but it’s not the most high-profile anime of this season.


Fathom Events will bring Digimon Adventure: Latest Kizuna Evolution in theaters on March 25, shortly after the film’s premiere in Japan on February 21. The film, set in the same continuity as the original Digimon series, should be sort of a grand finale for the Digimon franchise so far. It is also rumored that the much anticipated Yuri on ice !!! prequel movie, Ice adolescence, could finally hit theaters in 2020 after its release delayed from its provisional 2019 release window. Funimation, which allows Yuri on ice !!! will likely give it a limited theatrical release.

However, when looking at the 2020 animated film calendar, two films stand out above all the others. The first to be released in Japan is Evangelion Rebuild: 3.0 + 1.0 June 27. This will be the long-delayed finale of the evangelization franchise, commonly referred to as one of the greatest anime of all time. It’s unclear when the movie will release in America, but Funimation, which licensed the previous Rebuild of Evangelion movies, will no doubt distribute this one as well.


The other is Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal, the long-awaited adaptation of the sailor moon fourth arc of the manga. The film will be a two-part event, with the first part being released on September 11. The release date for Part 2 has yet to be announced. Sailor Moon Crystal is distributed by Viz Media, therefore this film may receive a limited theatrical release at Fathom Events.

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The Author Surprises

While huge franchises have a box office edge because of their built-in audience, not all anime hits are one of them. The greatest animated film of last year, Promare, is a completely original work which has turned out to be formidable. Alter with you has already proven that such a movie can find huge audiences in 2020, but it will have competition in Japan which will hopefully come to the West.


Josée, the tiger and the fish, an anime remake of a 2003 Japanese live-action film, itself based on a novel by acclaimed Japanese writer Seiko Tanabe, is set to premiere in Japan this year and may appeal to a more mature audience. August will see the release of Love me don’t love me, an adaptation of the manga of the same name by Io Sakisaka. The manga is licensed in the west by Viz and, therefore, may receive a limited western version.

However, the biggest contender for Best Original Animated Film of 2020 is Studio Ghibli. How do you live? directed by legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. The official release date for the film has yet to be announced, but it is slated for release in 2020 before the Summer Olympics and could be Miyazaki and Ghibli’s last film. If GKIDS, who licensed all of Studio Ghibli’s previous films, releases this new film in theaters, it will certainly be a huge event for fans.


Of course, there is no guarantee that any of them will receive Western theatrical releases and, if they do, that such releases will take place in 2020. Yet it is clear that there is a audience for animated films in the United States, so limited releases of upcoming animated films like Josée, the tiger and the fish, and How do you live? would be a good idea. Even though the biggest Japanese releases don’t hit this year, it’s clear that the future is bright for anime in the West.

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