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What happened to Pokemon movies?

Konja7

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There wasn't a Pokemon movie in 2021. It also seems there won't be a Pokemon movie in 2022. This situation is weird, since they release a new Pokemon movie each year until 2020.

Then, I wonder what happened that they stopped to make Pokemon movies.
 

MagicBox

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As silurica said, it's important to remember that we're still very much in a pandemic. The coronavirus is inarguably what contributed the most to Koko's poor performance (which still stands as the all-time franchise low point in box office numbers, if I recall correctly). The film was bumped from its traditional summer premiere date. The number of families interested in... you know, not dying, meant a lack of butts in theater seats. It was a perfect storm of horrible events and the annual Pokémon movies were far from the only casualty. I'd be curious to know whether or not the film's home video sales made up for this in any meaningful way.

But while COVID's an easy thing to blame, we can't forget that the Pokémon movies weren't exactly enjoying a massive wave of success even prior to the pandemic. I Choose You gave the franchise a much-needed shot in the arm at the box office and Mewtwo Strikes Back EVOLUTION did okay (although for a CG film I'm sure they were expecting more), but aside from that the film series was (and still is) in a pretty severe state of jeopardy. Box office returns had been getting progressively worse with every new movie during the Best Wishes! and XY eras, and even cultural phenomena like Pokémon GO didn't seem to conjure any meaningful boost in theaters.

"Well, it's the movies' fault for not being very good!", I hear you say. "They're just these silly little one-off stories that feel like extended episodes!" And you'd have a point, except... that's exactly what series like Doraemon and Detective Conan do and their yearly films continue to enjoy HUGE success theatrically (with the latter continually breaking box office records). This is a problem very specific to this franchise. Ignoring the pandemic, the annual Pokémon summer blockbuster is no longer the must-see movie event for Japanese audiences that it used to be, and the production staff is clearly having a very difficult and stressful time identifying why that is.

I suspect they'll try again in 2023, no doubt leaning on the franchise's extended absence from theaters as a marketing ploy. ("We're finally back!") What form that movie will take (and whether they even try to sustain annual installments after this) is anyone's guess. The Sun & Moon era has proven that the movies don't need to be based on a currently-airing TV series to be successful. It's a blank canvas; they can be anything. That's great for creativity, but horribly stressful when trying to figure out what audiences want. There are many pillars of success that keep Pokémon afloat, but I think it's become increasingly obvious by this point that the yearly film series isn't one of 'em.
 

Hidden Mew

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After they had to delay the release of Koko to December 2020 due to the pandemic, I assume that it affected the production or whatever plans they had for the next movie. I don't know if they would have had to scrap their plans for the next movie entirely or if it just prevented them from starting production, but I wouldn't be surprised if having to delay the movie even by a few months really messed up their plans for the next movie.

The fact that the movies haven't been huge financial successes could be a factor, especially when this has been a more consistent problem for the past few series of movies, but I imagine that they would have continued to release movies annually if it wasn't for the pandemic.
 

Handy Man

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I’m pretty sure the team for the Pokémon movies travel to real life locations for research on the settings of the movies as well. For example, for Pokémon Heroes, they visited Venice, Italy for inspiration. If they are restricted to traveling outside of their studio, then they can’t really do the research that they want to do.
 

Konja7

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As silurica said, it's important to remember that we're still very much in a pandemic. The coronavirus is inarguably what contributed the most to Koko's poor performance (which still stands as the all-time franchise low point in box office numbers, if I recall correctly). The film was bumped from its traditional summer premiere date. The number of families interested in... you know, not dying, meant a lack of butts in theater seats. It was a perfect storm of horrible events and the annual Pokémon movies were far from the only casualty. I'd be curious to know whether or not the film's home video sales made up for this in any meaningful way.

It's true that the Secrets of the Jungle has the lowest point in box office for Pokemon movies, but it isn't a lot worse that the Power of Us.

The Power of Us: $23.7 million ($21 million in Japan).

The Secrets of the Jungle: $23.6 million (18.5 million in Japan).

So, although the Covid affected the box office, it doesn't seem so extreme.
 

Nicolas721

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At first it was obvious it was due to COVID, but now it's becoming more likely that they used that as on opportunity to stop and rethink their approach, and even if people keep denying it the low performance of recent movies also played a part. I doubt they will be cancelled forever, but I see them going for the One piece/Dragon Ball approach where they come at random years in random release dates.
 

jbmasta

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It'll be interesting to see if the AU universe continues or if the movies will go back to the main anime continuity, both approaches having their pros and cons. Or indeed if the CG remakes of the early films continue.
 

UxieLover1994

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To be honest, what causes audiences to be turned off from these movies is the lack of originality. We get smug, obvious villains motivated by greed and lust for power. Half the films involve the world being threatened. Ash is the chosen one half the time. The featured Mythical Pokémon is generally unlikeable. A character dies, but is brought back almost imminently. Several films (in a row!) have disregarded the rules of Mega Evolution.

These clichés repeated themselves so often, and M19 pretty much had all of the above tropes. The reboot was the only way to (temporary) save face, and even then, COVID helped exploit their flaws.

Of course, I'm expecting a 25th anniversary film to be announced soon. Whether it be a sequel to M20-M21-M23, a CGI remake of M02, or something new, anything goes.
 

snowmint

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Yeah, I don't like how Japan just slams out a movie for a long run we every year, but I guess it works well for some franchises.
 

Dogasu

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While the most recent Pocket Monsters film being the all-time franchise low point in terms of box office performance sounds pretty terrible, you have to put it all in perspective. Pocket Monsters The Movie "Koko" ended up earning around 1.9 billion yen and spent 10 whole weeks in the Top Ten of the Japanese box office; most domestic films make significantly less money and only last three or four weeks in the Top Ten.

Pocket Monsters The Movie "Koko" did bad by Pokémon standards, sure, but when you stack it up against most other films it actually did pretty OK.

And while COVID is still very much a thing, yes, Japan has been more or less "back to normal" for a long while now. If OLM wanted to they could have very easily released a new movie this coming summer without any problems whatsoever. They just...aren't.

I suspect one of the major factors keeping them from making new movies is that it seems like the TV series (with which these films shares a large portion of its staff) has barely been keeping its head above water ever since COVID started. I broke down the numbers in this Twitter thread but the TLDR version is that the large number of breaks the show took in 2021 points to there still being something going on behind the scenes that's affecting production. The very abrupt reshuffling (and subsequent lack of promotion) of the recent Serena episode also points to things maybe not being back to normal, even now.

I think we're not going to see the next movie until the TV show finds a way to get back to its pre-COVID output.
 

Emelie

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I hope the next movie won't take place in an AU universe. Perhaps that is why they are doing badly? Ash/Satoshi barely does anything in the new movies while all the focus is on either one or several random characters.

Remember how mad everyone was when Misty and Brock were excluded from "I choose you"? And then they suddenly decided to make that weird remake of the first movie, perhaps as a response to the criticism?

Personally I would love to see something like movie 3 again. I remember how invested I was in the story when I first saw it as a child in the cinema because it was a personal conflict for Ash since his family was in danger. The antagonist was very tragic as well. The AU movies have some sad moments but it's hard to care about the random guy's parents dying in a car crash.
 
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The powers that be probably assessed the situation and found that it was not a viable investment to make a movie at this time
 

Dogasu

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Emelie said:
Remember how mad everyone was when Misty and Brock were excluded from "I choose you"? And then they suddenly decided to make that weird remake of the first movie, perhaps as a response to the criticism?

Pocket Monsters The Movie "I Choose You!" (Movie 20) was the first movie since the Victini movie (Movie 14) to actually earn more money at the box office than its predecessor. Each movie from Keldeo onwards had been earning less than its predecessor and so the switch over to the AU continuity actually gave the series the shot in the arm the franchise needed.

We know from the feature in the September 2019 issue CG World magazine that production on Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution started in early 2017, likely several months before "I Choose You!" even hit theaters. Movie 22 was going to turn out the way it did regardless of what the reaction to Movie 20 was.
 

Hidden Mew

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The backlash towards I Choose You not having Misty and Brock always felt overblown to me. I know fans wanted to see them in a new movie, but given that the movies largely focus on Ash, they'd just be in the background. Plus, they returned in SM, which actually allowed for the focus to be on Misty, Brock and show off their off-screen development. That should be a bigger deal than seeing AU versions of them traveling with Ash in a movie.

I don't think that they'd plan a remake of the first movie to appeal to that backlash. Not only because the movie was in development long before that happened, but I don't know if a lot of Japanese fans were upset with Misty and Brock not being in I Choose You like western fans were. It would also be a weird choice to remake the first movie to appeal to the backlash when Misty and Brock still didn't do much and were largely in the background.
 

SammyW27

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The pandemic, decreasing box office numbers, and various production issues.

Heck, the Pokemon Company getting other studios to make content outside the Show almost feels like a sign... :unsure:

Though to be honest, I can't say I miss 'em. To be honest, I'd be fine if they even stopped making them to focus entirely on the Show and specials.
 

Twilight-Kun

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2020 was ICY
2021 was Everyone's Story
2022 was Evolution
2023 was Koko

Ironically, the movies are ahead of the year now, so...I guess we'll be back for M24 in two years?
 

Nichole the Otter

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I think it’s definitely the combination of COVID and recent movies being supposed box office flops in Japan. Other production issues could also be what’s preventing the anime staff from working on another movie, because they have to rethink their approach to the movies entirely.
 
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