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GKIDS Acquires ‘The First Slam Dunk’ Distribution Rights

The Japan Academy Prize-winning feature, directed by original manga creator Takehiko Inoue, arrives in U.S. and Canadian theaters this summer.

GKIDS has just announced its acquisition of the North American distribution rights for The First Slam Dunk from animation studio Toei Animation. The 2D film will be released theatrically in the United States and Canada later this summer in both original Japanese and English. 

In the film, Ryota Miyagi, following in the footsteps of his older brother who was a famous local basketball player, is addicted to the game, always playing with lightning speed, running circles around his opponents while feigning composure. In his second year of high school, Ryota plays for the Shohoku High School basketball team along with Sakuragi, Rukawa, Akagi, and Mitsui.  Now they take the stage at the Inter-High School National Championship against reigning champions, Sannoh Kogyo High School.

The film opened domestically in Japan on December 3, 2022, and has gone on to break box office records in several countries during its international release. With current global box office earnings of over $212 million, the animated feature has become the 24th highest grossing film of all time in Japan. Upon its South Korea release, it climbed to number two at the box office for its opening weekend – becoming, at the time, the most-watched Japanese movie ever in South Korea. Most recently, The First Slam Dunk opened in Mainland China and with $55.2 million reported at the box office on opening weekend, became the most successful opening for an imported animated film in the country.

The basis for the film, Takehiko Inoue’s “Slam Dunk,” is one of the best-selling manga series of all time, with over 170 million copies sold globally, and has inspired various media adaptations, including a video game and an anime series that ran from 1993-1996. The First Slam Dunk marks the first feature-length film from the franchise, as well as Inoue’s directorial debut. The film went on to win this year’s Japan Academy Prize for Best Animation of the Year. 

The Japanese voice cast includes Shugo Nakamura; Jun Kasama; Shinichiro Kamio; Subaru Kimura; and Kenta Miyake.

Other credits include Toshiyuki Matsui as Producer; Inoue and Yasuyuki Ebara as Animation Character Designers; Daiki Nakazawa as CG Director; Yasuyuki Ebara as Animation Director; Kazuo Ogura as Art Director; Shunsuke Nakamura as Compositing Director; Ryuichi Takita as Editor; and Kazuhiro Nishikawa as Animation Producer.  

Watch the announcement:

“I am very thankful to our partners at Toei Animation for working together with us on what I consider one of the best sports films ever made,” said GKIDS president David Jesteadt. “The First Slam Dunk is thrilling but also deeply emotional, and it has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. We can’t wait to share the film with ‘Slam Dunk’ fans, as well as those who are discovering this work for the first time.”

Toei Animation president Masayuki Endo stated, “We’re thrilled to work with GKIDS to bring Toei Animation’s blockbuster film The First Slam Dunk to North America.  The First Slam Dunk has been a smash hit in Asia since premiering in Japan last December and we’re excited to see the response from U.S. and Canadian audiences when it premieres this summer.”

“I want to welcome North American fans – both new and old – to the world of ‘Slam Dunk,’” said Matsui. “The First Slam Dunk offers the unique excitement and thrills of ‘Slam Dunk’ that can only be experienced in a movie theatre.”

Source: GKIDS

Whitney Whitener's picture

Whitney is a freelance writer focusing on VFX-driven fantasy film & TV as well as preschool animation.