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‘Ghost in the Shell’ Gets Thumbs Up in Japan, But is Still in Box Office Trouble

Paramount’s remake out-grossed the original ”Ghost in the Shell“ in Japan, but is still a long way from getting out of the red

While Scarlett Johansson’s casting and dim reviews drowned “Ghost in the Shell” in negative publicity in the United States, the live-action remake of Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 anime film was much better received in the source material’s country-of-origin, Japan.

In its opening weekend across the Pacific, “Ghost in the Shell” grossed $3.2 million from 611 screens and currently has a 3.55 user rating on Yahoo Movies Japan. Both totals are higher than those of Oshii’s original film, which made $2.3 million in its opening weekend and holds a 3.2 rating on Yahoo Japan.

Meanwhile, in China, the film took in a $21.4 million opening, higher than the $20 million posted by ScarJo’s 2014 action film, “Lucy.”

But when you drill down into those numbers, it becomes clear that Asia won’t save “Ghost in the Shell” from finishing in the red for Paramount. In Japan, box office rankings are determined by admissions, not gross. By that scale, the film’s 233,000 admissions put it No. 3 in Japan behind Illumination’s “Sing,” which has dominated the Japanese box office for the past four weeks, and Disney’s “Moana.”

The fact that Paramount’s remake out-grossed the original’s opening also shows how, even in Japan, “Ghost in the Shell” is still a niche IP and has been so since its origin as a manga series first released by Shirow Masamune in 1989. When competing against behemoths like Disney, being niche is not something a studio wants its film to be.

With China and Japan’s opening now behind it, “Ghost in the Shell”‘s opening now stands at $92.8 million overseas and a mere $31.5 million in the States, where this past weekend it saw its $18.6 million opening take a 61 percent hit for a mere $7.3 million in its second frame. That puts its worldwide total at $124 million against a production budget of $110 million. With marketing costs factored in, box office analysts tell TheWrap that they estimate the film would have to make at least $250-275 million just to break even.

And that’s not going to happen. Starting this weekend, “The Fate of the Furious” will grab the attention of moviegoers around the world, with trackers expecting at least a $125 million domestic opening with a strong upside.

In Japan, “Fate” will arrive in theaters on April 28, and Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” will arrive in that market a week before then. Put that all together, and the window of salvation for “Ghost in the Shell” is about to slam shut.

“It looks like Paramount may just take a write-down on this and count on ‘Transformers’ to be its big 2017 blockbuster hit,” said Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock. “That’s the one franchise Paramount has that they can count on to make a billion dollars.”

Indeed, the last two films in the “Transformers” series have made $1.1 billion worldwide, with the franchise’s fifth installment, “The Last Knight,” due out in theaters at the end of June and two more sequels ordered for Paramount’s slate.

If “Last Knight” can keep the trend going, Paramount’s losses from “Ghost in the Shell” will be short-lived.