For the first time in 21 years...
aaron.gerow at yale.edu
Thu Feb 1 09:01:00 EST 2007
As was reported, Japanese films topped foreign films for the first time
in 21 years. Here are some of the specifics, based on the statistics
released by Eiren (www.eiren.org), reporting by the Asahi, and my own
Attendance increased 2.4% to 164 million while the box office increased
2.2% to a total of 202.5 billion yen. Japanese films took up 107.7
billion of that, or 53.2%. In comparison, the box office for foreign
films plummeted by 18.5% compared to 2005. The total number of films
released was 821, an increase from 731 in 2005. Japanese films totaled
417 of that, which according to the Asahi, is the highest total in 33
years. The number of screens increased to 3062 from 2926.
There were no Japanese megahits last year, but 6 films grossed over 5
billion yen, and 28 topped 1 billion. According to the Asahi, both are
A close look at the numbers, however, shows that not everything is
rosy. First, the total box office was still less than that it was in
2003 and 2004, so the market is not exhibiting any expansion trend even
though the number of films and screens is increasing (some are charging
that we are now seeing overproduction of films). A film on average in
2003 made 327 million yen, but in 2006 it was down to 247 million.
Japanese films were a bit better off: a Japanese film made on average
234 million in 2003 and 258 million in 2006 (but only after declining
to 230 million in 2005). Yet one could argue, with the hit films being
concentrated in a few studios, that there is a class system developing
in Japanese cinema where the rich films are getting richer and the poor
films are getting poorer. (This ironically might resemble Japanese
society today, where the economy is getting better, but the average
person is seeing few of the benefits as class differences are becoming
more pronounced.) The Asahi noted that Toho posted a record for its box
office results, topping 58.7 billion yen. Toho thus captured about 55%
of the hoga market (and 29% of the total). It had 8 of the top ten
Japanese BO films, and 15 of the 27 films it released topped 1 billion.
Toho's share of the Japanese film market went down a bit from last
year, but its share of the total actually rose (from 27%), so its
dominance is still overwhelming.
Theaters were also not necessarily doing well, as the average BO per
screen has also gone down (though one could argue that multiplexes,
which now account for 73% of all screens, are better able to handle
that than single screen theaters, although within limits).
One other significant development is the appearance of Warner Brothers
on the chart of Japanese film distributors, sporting major hits with
the two Death Note films and Brave Heart. Can Hollywood be making up
for its losses in the Japanese market by invading the market for
Japanese films? We shall see. It may mean that the share for the
average Japanese company will only get smaller.
Film Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures
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