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Anime Movies Are Finally Getting The U.S. Theatrical Releases They Deserve

Image: Night Is Short Walk On Girl

Just a couple decades ago, anime fans would pore over Japanese dictionaries to hand-translate subtitles for their favorite anime films, which they’d disseminate over IRCs and password-protected forums. Over the last couple of years, those same fans to see marquee displays for “SPIRITED AWAY” and “YOUR NAME” hanging above their local brick-and-mortar movie theater. More and more American theaters are screening new and old anime movies, a welcome change for fans tired of pirating anime on their tiny MacBooks.

It’s true that in 1999, kids lined up outside theaters for the 75-minute feature film Pokemon: The First Movie, a viewing experience my mother cites as the number one most challenging thing she did as a parent next to giving birth. Also, in 2002, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away—with meagre marketing—was shown at 151 theaters a year after its Japanese release, but grossed $5.5 million. Yet between the big releases, anime films used to be a rare sight to see in a U.S. theater—outside of film hubs like New York or Los Angeles. What we got was almost always accompanied by the words “limited release.”

Things are different now. After the enormous success of anime films like Your Name, which earned $1.7 million its opening weekend in 2017, the floodgates have been opened. Along with the excitement of participating in a cultural moment—the release of a movie to a large audience—fans can experience a lot of these films the way they’re meant to be seen: with booming sound, high-quality video and the cinema atmosphere.

Image: Ponyo

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