Front Row Filmed Entertainment has acquired Middle East and North African (MENA) rights for Japanese animation maestro Hayao Miyazak’s The Boy And The Heron.

The Dubai-based company will release the Studio Ghibli title theatrically in the region on December 14.

The deal follows the feature’s international premiere as the opening film of the Toronto Film Festival on September 8.

The MENA deal was brokered by Studio Ghibli’s long-time sales agents Goodfellas.

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Front Row has represented the entire Studio Ghibli library in the MENA for over two decades including classics such as the Academy Award winning Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo.

Front Row pioneered the animation space across the MENA by introducing the Studio Ghibli library on both theatrical and Home Video formats.

It has since successfully rolled out a string of Japanese films and TV series which include the Dragonball features and One Piece: Red which dominated the MENA box office last year. 

The upcoming MENA release of The Boy and The Heron will also mark the first time a Miyazaki film has been released in Saudi Arabia.

The territory is growing into a big theatrical market for Japanese anime following the lifting of its 35-year cinema ban at the end of 2017.

The Boy and The Heron was initially released in Japan in July, where it has grossed  $53 million to date.

In previously announced deals, GKIDS have acquired US rights for a December release, while Elysian Film Group, Anonymous Content, and Bleecker Street have jointly took UK rights last week.

The Boy and The Heron is described as a semi-autobiographical fantasy about life, death, and creation, in tribute to friendship. 

The film follows the story of a young boy named Mahito yearning for his mother as he ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead. There, death comes to an end, and life finds a new beginning. 

“The Front Row team is immensely proud to work on The Boy and the Heron,” said Front Row CEO Gianluca Chakra.

“We see it as our duty to promote the work of one of cinema’s greatest living filmmakers and to continue our long-standing relationship with the Goodfellas team and of course, the legends at Studio Ghibli. We can’t wait for people to watch this absolute gem of a film.” 

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