“We got one!” The classic and celebratory moment from 1984’s GHOSTBUSTERS came to mind this weekend as it was confirmed that Japan had become the first market globally to achieve the Stage 3 target of our Blueprint To Recovery guidelines. It marked a major step in the potential road to global recovery. It also demonstrated, once again, the need for major releases to engage audiences and drive them to the cinema; the achievement came thanks to the #1 success of Toho-Towa’s release of DOLITTLE.

DOLITTLE clearly spoke to Japanese audiences. The Universal film, released by Toho-Towa in Japan, fuelled business for the box office week commencing June 20 (June 20-26), following its June 19 opening. DOLITTLE accounted for an approximate market share of 64% and grossed over ¥258.6 million ($2.4m) by June 26.

The Stage 3 target requires that a market deliver a single week’s box office result equivalent to the lowest week result recorded by our partners at Comscore Movies in the previous two years (2018-2019). In Japan’s case the targets are specifically based on results recorded for MPA titles by Comscore. The Stage 3 target stood at ¥313.2 million (approximately $2.9m) – equivalent to the May 25-31 week in 2019.

The Asian major, and former #1 international market (overtaken by China in 2012), sailed past this target by more than ¥30 million in the seven days from June 19-25 (the first full week of play for DOLITTLE which, like many titles, opened on a Friday – a day ahead of the traditional start of the Japanese box office week). DOLITTLE’s first seven-day grosses alone would have achieved nearly 75% of the target.

But Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery guidelines are based on traditional box office weeks so that June 19-25 result would not have counted. Thankfully the June 20-26 box office week also managed to achieve the target (¥20m clear), delivering Japan’s best box office result for three months. It is the first time MPA titles have achieved a weekly box office of over ¥300 million in Japan since BIRDS OF PREY’s opening week (March 21-27), which topped ¥400 million.

DOLITTLE had strong support from Sony’s LITTLE WOMEN in its second week. The Greta Gerwig film had driven Japan’s achievement of the Stage 2 target upon its opening day (June 12) and saw business drop just 24% in its second week. There were also new openings for non-MPA titles: local mystery WEDNESDAY DISAPPEARS, released by Nikkatsu; THE CURRENT WAR, released by Kadokawa Herald; and Pedro Almodovar’s PAIN AND GLORY, released by Kino Films.

Of course, the Stage 3 marker, while key, is only an early step; the base week on our Blueprint To Recovery. Japan commonly records MPA box office weeks well in excess of ¥1 billion. This is reflected by the Stage 4 target (based on the median weekly box office from the previous two years) which stands at ¥1.8 billion for Japan.

Seven other international markets have achieved the Stage 2 goal, most recently Austria on June 20. South Korea, which never fully closed down, achieved 55% of its Stage 3 target during the June 18-24 week.

The fact that Japan commonly sees major releases debut some months after other markets has given the market an advantage over many re-opening international markets as it still had major Hollywood releases inbound. Following LITTLE WOMEN and DOLITTLE, this past weekend (June 26) saw SONIC THE HEDGEHOG debut in the market.

Gower Street is tracking growth across 29 international markets in its Road To Recovery reports.