Oppenheimer will get a theatrical release in Japan.
Japanese distributor Bitters End has confirmed it will bow Christopher Nolan’s biopic in local cinemas next year, though it did not set a specific release date.
In a statement, Bitters End said it had made the decision after screening the film and “following months of thoughtful dialogue associated with the subject matter and acknowledging the particular sensitivity for us Japanese.”
With his biopic about the brilliant physicist who led the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb, Nolan had “created a singular cinematic experience that transcends traditional storytelling and must be seen on the big screen,” the company said. “We invite the audience to watch the film with their own eyes when it comes to Japan.”
Oppenheimer, a Universal release, starring Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr. and Florence Pugh, has been a phenomenal critical and commercial success, grossing more than $950 million worldwide, and is a frontrunner for next year’s Oscars. But the subject matter has meant the film was always highly controversial in Japan.
This summer, Warner Bros. Japan was forced to apologize after Warners’ U.S. Twitter account posted memes featuring mashups of Warners’ Barbie with Nolan’s Oppenheimer film, something many Japanese took to be making light of the more than 200,000 killed in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The phrase #NoBarbenheimer trended in Japan and it was not clear whether Oppenheimer would get a local release.
Nolan has defended his choice to not explicitly depict the bombings and the Japanese victims, arguing his film is told subjectively from Oppenheimer’s point of view and that the physicist never witnessed the devastation he helped bring about. “He learned about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the radio — the same as the rest of the world,” Nolan told NBC.
This isn’t the first Universal title Bitters End has released in Japan, having previously handled the local bow of Joe Wright’s Churchill biopic Darkest Hour and Paul Thomas Anderson’s ’70s dramedy Licorice Pizza.