Usually fans of Japanese anime watch their favorite shows and feature-length films on the small screen—that is, on their computer screens.
Now, anime is coming to the big screen on a regular basis. Called Anime Movie Night, the quarterly event will bring new and classic anime, both episodic and feature-length, to cinemas around the United States.
Anime Movie Night is a joint project of streaming anime provider Crunchyroll (think Netflix for anime), cinema advertiser Screenvision Media, and event cinema creator KAOS Connect. Screenvision Media’s advertising network is comprised of over 14,300 screens in 2,300+ theatre locations across 50 states, hinting at Anime Movie Night’s possible range.
The quarterly project premieres in April 2017 at American theaters, but Crunchyroll has not yet specified which title(s) will be airing at that time. The company said in a press release that both never-released titles and “classic” favorites are possibilities.
Aside from anime, the event will also showcase “behind the scenes content, industry interviews, and Crunchyroll originals.” Not much information is available yet, but the wording implies that it’s likely some content will be exclusive to Anime Movie Night, or available there before it is available on Crunchyroll’s website.
As an anime fan myself, the announcement reminds me strongly of my college anime club days, where we’d all gather in the auditorium to watch anime together. According to Kun Gao, General Manager of Crunchyroll, Anime Movie Night is very much about that anime club vibe.
“As demand for anime continues to grow in the U.S. and around the world, it’s a thrill to have the opportunity to bring the latest hits, as well as the anime that fans know and love, into theaters – often for the very first time,” he said. “We want to create new ways for fans to come together and share the experience of the content they love, and cinema is the perfect medium.”
Anime continues to be a testing ground for media companies, who turn to the medium’s loyal fanbase in order to tackle new forms of media engagement. At Amazon, Anime Strike is the company’s first take on a channel just for one genre of entertainment. Closer to home is Crunchyroll’s parent company, Ellation, which is releasing its geeky Netflix competitor VRV to target streaming media at a more specific audience.
But will it work for the theater? Traditional cinemas continue to see lagging sales as movie buffs opt for home theaters over movie theaters. By diving in with a specific, engaged audience already in mind, Anime Movie Night will find out the answer quickly.