‘Oppenheimer’ Opens in Final Market, Japan

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More than eight months (and one Oscar best picture win) after “Oppenheimer” landed in theaters, Christopher Nolan’s historical epic is still finding new audiences.

The film opened over the weekend in its final market, Japan, with $2.5 million from 343 theaters. It placed third on the country’s box office charts after two local offerings, the horror movie “Strange House” and the animated “Haikyu!!” According to Universal Pictures, “Oppenheimer” is the biggest opening weekend of 2024 for a Hollywood release in Japan, surpassing “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” ($1.6 million) and “Dune: Part Two” ($1.3 million).

With these ticket sales, “Oppenheimer” stands at a staggering $965 million globally. It’s a remarkable tally for a three-hour, R-rated drama that mostly takes place in laboratories and the halls of American government. In addition to box office riches, the $100-million budgeted film won seven Oscars, including best picture and director.

It’s not unusual for American-made movies to debut in Japan months later than they do in North America. But before the release of “Oppenheimer,” there was speculation about whether the film would play in Japan at all. It’s controversial in Japan given the subject matter of the film, which follows the American theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy) who led the creation of the atomic bombs. Those weapons of mass destruction were detonated in 1945 over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens.

Distributor Toho-Towa, which releases the majority of Hollywood films in Japan, opted to not get involved with “Oppenheimer.” It looked like the movie wouldn’t come to Japan, until last December when Bitters End picked up the film “following months of thoughtful dialogue associated with the subject matter.” Bitters End previously handled the rollout of the Oscar-winning “Parasite” in Japan and is currently playing Japan’s Academy Award-nominated “Perfect Days.”

Compared to Nolan’s prior films, initial ticket sales for “Oppenheimer” were above “Interstellar,” “Batman Begins,” “Dunkirk” and “The Dark Knight”; on par with “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Tenet”; and below “Inception” at the same point in their rollout, according to Universal. “Inception” is the director’s top-grossing movie in Japan with $42 million, while his two most recent releases, “Tenet” and “Dunkirk,” generated $25 million and $14.8 million respectively in the country’s cinemas.

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