This September sees two movies based on anime that have found success in North America getting a limited engagement in theaters: one night only. They are:
EUREKA SEVEN: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers
EVANGELION 1.0: You are [NOT] Alone
Now, I get EVANGELION, Gainax Studio's Golden Cash Cow, which is pretty universally worshiped by nerds the world over as the definitive gateway to anime fandom. Whether or no you understand it's complex and adult plot, it's philosophical musings, or it'd delving into psuedo-Jewish mystism, it's stands as one of those things that people seem to just have an experience watching; wowed by the visuals, shocked by the content, and challenged by the plot. Plus, with FUNIMATION being the MICROSOFT of anime these days, it's not surprising they'd want to get some more widespread exposure for what will probably be their biggest money-maker for now and probably for years to come.
EUREKA SEVEN on the other hand I understand a little less. It was popular when it was on, but I don't really think it was a breakout success for either YTV or CARTOON NETWORK, as YTV has pretty much marginalized it's block of prime-time adult oriented anime programing (I think BIONIX is now on at 1:00-3:00 am Saturday nights or something, whereas it was formerly their Friday Night nerd grabbing ratings machine), which leads me to believe that it was to costly to license those shows with very little ratings payoff. As for how it did on DVD I can't say; I don't really follow the industry that closely. The only sure-fire way I know to just a shows success in North America is by seeing how many people cosplay as characters from that show at ANIME NORTH; the answer being very few. Add to that that BANDAI is not nearly the industry giant it was before, having less new material coming out as compared to FUNIMATION, and with less consistency (from personal experience, 9 out of 10 releases, of late, have seen some sort of delay or re-solicitation). But, then, that may explain why they'd put the effort into getting exposure for a movie tied into a series that probably did ok for them a few years ago; problem is that I don't think the modern anime-nerd's memory is that long.
I'm also suspect as to how well similar releases in past years have worked out for other companies such as VIZ or MANGA CORPS. NARUTO rakes it in hand over fist for VIZ on a nearly daily basis, but how many sales did their one day screening of CLASH IN THE LAND OF ICE AND SNOW,or the BLEACH movie MEMORIES OF NOBODY really generate? I'm fairly certain that the little attended screening of KARAS that Jerry and I attended (and which was super-awesome by the by) didn't generate many sales for MANGA CORPS... outside of me that is.
So I guess my question is: does this work? Aside from Miyazaki movies, wide release anime has never really been all that successful without some kind of successful franchise tie-in. POKEMON go four wide releases before the diminishing returns killed it, as did DIGIMON (awesome and totally superior to POKEMON as a series and standalone movie in every way) and YU-GI-OH (a guilty pleasure of mine), while STEAMBOY and PAPRIKA, while garnering critical acclaim (STEAMBOY was a full house at TIFF the year I saw it, and PAPRIKA is at 82% positive on ROTTENTOMATOES), went mostly unnoticed.
My theory is that if the end result is that it sells a lot of DVD's, that's all that matters; but if no one goes to see it, how many DVD's does it really sell, especially in the modern age of internet thievery and fan-entitlement gone wild? In that case, is it still worth it?
At any rate, I'm excited about getting the chance to see either EUREKA SEVEN or EVAGELION on the big screen, but I don't think that either will be successful enough to achieve my dream of seeing popular anime getting wide releases in North American theaters.