Perfect Blue & After Life Distribution

Stephen Cremin asianfilmlibrary
Sat Dec 4 12:22:36 EST 1999

Jasper mentioned the incredibly limited release of PERFECT BLUE in London 
earlier this year.  It was a two week release at the ICA in late May, a 
mini-theatre with just under 200 seats.  I dropped by quite a lot over those 
two weeks because the cinema was - in theory - playing my trailer for SHARK 
SKIN MAN & PEACH HIP GIRL prior to the Asano retrospective.

No brochures were printed by the local distributor Manga Entertainment and I 
only noticed two small colour advertisements, both in the weekly listings 
publication, "Time Out".  1/8 A4 page each and much classier than one might 
expect from the distributor.  The film did get a lot of support from 
Jonathan Clements, editor of "Manga Max", and Tony Rayns, unofficial 
consultant for "Time Out" and official consultant for "Sight & Sound", which 
helped the film get more prominence.

There was a strong audience for the opening night, which fell off soon 
afterwards; a pattern with anime releases in London.  Actual box office 
statistics were printed in "Screen Finance", but I think I calculated at the 
time that less than US$2500 would have gone back to Rex Entertainment 
assuming normal box office splits.  I can't confirm that.  But, of course, 
Rex would have received a minimum guarantee for English-language rights 
before then.  And the video market was always the key target for Manga.

I'd be interested to know if it fared any better in other countries.  And 
I'd find it quite useful to hear from other list members how Japanese films 
are marketed and received in their own countries.  I hear, for example, that 
Rapid Eye Movies in Germany did a great job with "Samurai Fiction" in terms 
of press coverage and marketing, but box office didn't really reflect that.  
They're now doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes for their release of 
"Swallowtail Butterfly" including a small retrospective to Iwai in Hamburg 
later this month (which Iwai should be attending), but again who knows if 
that will be a success.

The interesting success story recently of course is Koreeda's "After Life".  
I didn't see any real press coverage in London beyond capsule reviews: there 
were 10 films on release in the capital that week making very tough 
competition for space.  But I hear it did remarkably well, an usher told me 
around 75% capacity but I'd need to check "Screen Finance" to confirm that.  
ICA Projects were distributors and Koreeda came to London two or three weeks 
prior to the release to conduct interviews.  Again it benefited from 
long-term support from Tony Rayns in "Sight & Sound".  ICA opted for black & 
white adverts in, for example, "The Guardian" newspaper, contracting the 
title to "Afterlife" with the image of Oda Erika rather than Arata or the 
ensemble pic.

But I actually think "After Life" UNDER-performed in the UK.  The fact that 
it got such a strong audience with minimal press coverage suggests that a 
larger distributor with a larger marketing budget could have really made a 
huge success out of the film.  Anyway, thats something we'll never know.  
(There was a larger distributor interested in the film, but they didn't have 
the full facts about BBC TV's interest in broadcasting the film and hence 
didn't pick it up.)

Stephen Cremin
The Asian Film Library

PS: I guess now is as good a time as any to come out: I've relocated to Hong 
Kong.  A sudden spur-of-the-moment decision during the Pusan International 
Film Festival.  As such, I'll be travelling to Tokyo and Seoul more 

PPS: Speaking of which, does anybody know if "GTO" will have subtitles when 
released in Hong Kong on 23 December, five days after the Tokyo release?  
Its playing at MIP ASIA in Singapore next week, which suggests there is an 
English-subtitled print.

PPPS: I really hope I'm not spreading another false rumour about Korean 
DVDs, but the newly released "The Ring Virus", an official remake of "Ring", 
does apparently have English and Japanese subtitle tracks.  Don't take my 
word for it.

PPPPS: Kang Tae-Woong and I got in a slightly heated discussion on the list 
about Iwai Shunji's potential success in Korea.  Well, we'll know more when 
"Cine21" is published tomorrow with the latest box office statistics, but 
its estimated that there'll be around 600,000 attendees in total (which is 
five times the audience of "Unagi", the most successful of the Japanese 
releases since restrictions were lifted).  140,000 people attended its 
opening week in Seoul and "Variety" reported that in its second week it 
still beat new American entry, "Double Jeopardy".  Real test will come soon 
enough with "April Story" as presumably half of Korea haven't already seen 
that on pirate videotape.  For the record, Iwai went to Korea to promote the 
film, appearing on national TV.  "Kino" magazine put Nakayama Miho on the 
cover and ran around a dozen pages on the film.  "Cine21" also gave it a 
fair bit of space and ran an interview between Iwai and Chang Yoon-Hyun, 
director of "The Contact" and "Tell Me Something".  Advertising in subway 
stations and in magazines was also strong, opting for very poetic imagery: 
Nakayama Miho on the bicycle, etc.

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