When you consider what a hot property Sailor Moon was as a full-blown multimedia marketing machine from the early- to mid-90’s, it seems like something of a mystery that there never was a movie for the fifth season to wrap the series up. After all, with the new stories and characters introduced in Sailor Stars, there must have been a lot of potential for making a movie, right? Well, that’s what we’re going to take a look at today!
The greatest problem facing the production of the Sailor Moon movies was probably that, frankly, they weren’t actually bringing in that much money as the series progressed. Though Sailor Moon R was a pretty massive success at the time, each successive movie made less than the previous, making the the movies less and less financially viable as the series continued. The income for the movie production house (after subtracting the theaters’ cut) was:
- Sailor Moon R: The Movie (12/5/1993) – JPY 1.30 billion
- Sailor Moon S: The Movie (12/4/1994) – JPY 1.05 billion
- Sailor Moon SuperS: The Movie (12/23/1995) – JPY 600 million
Though there was just a minimal drop between the first and second movies, you can see that by the time SuperS hit theaters, the movie made less than half of what the first movie had brought it.
Of course, it doesn’t actually mean much to say that it makes “less money” if we don’t know what we’re looking at in production costs. After all, profit is still profit, right?
Unfortunately, that’s a hard question to answer, since obviously production companies aren’t exactly very forthcoming about how much money they sink into projects, or at least they weren’t back in the day. I do think we can reasonably estimate the cost, though, by looking at how much other animated movies of the same period cost to produce.1
- Sangokushi (1992) – JPY 500 million
- Ghost in the Shell (1996) – JPY 600 million
- Pokemon: Mew Two’s Revenge (1998) – JPY 300-350 million
Note that these do not include advertising costs – they’re purely how much is cost to produce the movie.
An average of the three movie budgets gives us around JPY 475 million to produce a Japanese animated movie in the 1990s. Now, going by that it would appear that all of the Sailor Moon movies were still a reasonable success, but general logic in the Japanese movie industry is that you’ll want at least double the production costs back in profits to be considered a decent success.2
Last, by not not least, as for why we probably never saw a Stars movie is probably simply because the popularity of the series was waning by the time the fifth season was on air, and that’s putting it charitably.
As you can see, near the end of the series the average viewership in Stars was actually falling below the lowest viewership in nearly every other season. In fact, the episode with the highest viewership in Stars was the very first episode, and it all dropped from there.
Taken together – the poor returns on the SuperS movie and the sharp decline in the series’ popularity – it seems like it was probably determined that it wouldn’t make financial sense to make a final movie.
While I can certainly understand the decision they made and think that it was probably the right one (personally, after the amazing story they managed to pull off in the S movie and having had Ms. Takeuchi’s direct involvement, I feel like there was a definite drop in quality with the SuperS movie… but that’s just me!), I still wonder what a Stars movie would have ultimately looked like. Obviously it would have brought the Outer Soldiers back – which would have been nice to see – but it might have also let us see the Starlights from a new angle. It’s fun to imagine, if nothing else!