Could When Marnie Was There be Studio Ghibli’s last feature film?

When Marnie Was There (secondposter)Studio Ghibli’s latest animated feature, When Marnie Was There, opened in Japan on 19 July. Facing stiff competition against the likes of the new release of Pokémon the Movie: Diance and the Cocoon of Destruction and the second week of Maleficent, Ghibli’s latest struggled at the box office.

Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, When Marnie Was There charted at the Japanese box office at #3, taking just ¥378 million ($3.7 million). As a comparison, when Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises opened in Japan last year, it reached #1 with an opening weekend take of ¥960 million ($9.57 million).

After Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement from directing, some had been speculating about whether Studio Ghibli could continue without him. There have been rumours circulating that Studio Ghibli co-founder and general manager, Toshio Suzuki, is thinking of closing the animation studio, following Miyazaki’s departure. Suzuki himself stepped down as a producer to Ghibli’s films back in March, and co-founder Isao Takahata also announced his departure after directing his final film, The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

It has been noted that during Tokyo FM’s Ghibli Asemamire radio show on June 27th, Suzuki said that the future of the studio depended upon the success of When Marnie Was There.

Along with this, it has been reported on Japan’s News Café that an anonymous insider at the studio revealed that When Marnie Was There could be Ghibli’s last film. He said that it is likely the studio will no longer be making new animated films, but will instead continue as a copyright management company, earning money from the work they’ve created so far.

The insider also added that each animated feature the studio produces incurs huge production costs. In order to cover those costs and become profitable for the studio, each film would need to earn at least ¥10 billion ($100 million).

Adding credence to this is an article from Japan’s Asahi Shimbun. Back in September 2013, they reported that even though The Wind Rises had earned over ¥9 billion ($90 million) in Japan, Studio Ghibli had yet to turn a profit on the film (however, it is not known what the official production budget of The Wind Rises was, nor how much of the film’s eventual box office takings Studio Ghibli actually receive). As of now, The Wind Rises has currently earned ¥11.8 billion ($117 million worldwide).

Adding further fuel to the direction that the studio is heading, it turns out that Miyazaki had spoken about plans to turn Studio Ghibli into a copyright management company back in 2010. Speaking to Japan’s Cut Magazine, he said, “Suzuki-san is making a dissolution program for Ghibli. No joke, we talked about it the other day. For example, Ghibli should be able to continue with about five staff members as a copyright management company even if we smash the studio. So, Ghibli can say ‘We stop film production. Goodbye’. I do not have to be there.”

It is worth noting that the only thing on the horizon from Studio Ghibli is the animated TV series Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, a co-production with Poloygon Pictures directed by Goro Miyazaki.

 

Sources: Kotaku | Crunchyroll | Tokyohive | Asahi Shimbun | Bleeding Cool

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1 Comment

  1. Adziu says:

    Seems to me like much ado about nothing.

    Even if the films aren’t turning much of a profit, don’t underestimate Ghibli’s merchandising machine in Japan. It’s a huge operation.

    Yonebashi will be making a lot of films yet – almost certainly including the Porco Rosso sequel.

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