Titanic, etc.

Mark Schilling schill
Sat Jan 2 10:02:09 EST 1999

>From: Mark Schilling <schill at gol.com>
>To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
> Subject: Titanic
> Date: Friday, January 01, 1999 9:19 PM

	John Dougill asked whether Titaninmanic is worldwide. The answer is
emphatically yes. According to figures published in the Screen
International December 11-17 issue, the film's worldwide gross was $1.8
billion. By comparison, the number two film for 1998, "Armageddon," grossed
$433.6 million worldwide. It was number one in every major territory
surveyed by the magazine, including of course Japan. 
	As for the results of the Yomiuri survey Doughill mentioned, they are no
news -- I've been hearing similar badmouthing of Japanese films since the
day I arrived here 23 years ago. 
	I believe most of the respondents were sincere and that their comments
point to real problems with filmmaking in this country. But I found it
ironic that, while the respondents were knocking spin-offs of TV dramas,
"Odoru Daisosasen" was on its way to becoming the highest earning domestic
live-action film of the year. I also found the "small scale" comment shiyo
ga nai. Criticizing Japanese films for not having Hollywood stars or
production values is like knocking the Todai basketball team for losing to
the Chicago Bulls. I mean, what else did you expect? 
	The average budget for a major US studio production is now over $50
million. In Japan a "Fuyajo," which cost $6 million to make, is considered
a big budget project. A budget of $13 million for a period drama like
"Pride" is pushing the limit of what anyone can realisitically expect to
recoup here theatrically. As it turned out the film earned about $9.5
million in rentals.  If anyone were to spend $50 million on a Japanese film
they must either be suffering from delusions of grandeur or think they can
sell it internationally -- which usually amounts to the same thing.  
	Also, when producers here go for "big scale" they usually end up making
yet another cheesy monster movie -- Godzilla forever! -- or turgid costume
drama. We've seen the results of this strategy over the past decades --
steady erosion or market share and attendance, accompanied steady growth in
the number of disaffected ffans who feel, with jusitfication, that
mainstream Japanese films are generally crap. (By and large, they have no
idea that Japanese indie films even exist.)
	There is a third way forward which is that of Sento Takenori, Suo Masayuki
and other filmmakers who both respect the intelligence of the audience and
understand the realities of the markeplace. I believe that their numbers
are growing, but as the results of the Yomiuri survey show, they still have
a long way to go.  

Mark Schilling

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