U.S. pix take title in Japan

Results are in for the 1993 film season in Japan, and for the first time ever rentals for the U.S. majors were higher than those for the local players.

Film rentals for the U.S. majors leapt 62.3%, to 35.6 billion yen ($ 350 million); nearly all the U.S. companies improved upon ’92’s performance. Meanwhile, the Japanese majors showed a 10% decrease in rentals during the same period, down to 23.8 billion yen ($ 220 million).

“This was the first time that the American rental results were bigger (than the Japanese),” said a rep of the Motion Picture Producers Assn. of Japan.

Recession question

Execs at various Japanese majors attribute their poor showings to the recession; however, in spite of those same economic conditions, the American majors did rather well. Looking at the Japanese movies that posted the highestrentals, it seems that while kiddie fare was strong, the domestic mainstream commercial offerings were disappointing.

An exec at a Japanese major summed up the 1993 film scene in Japan: “The only good movies around last year were foreign. It was very disappointing for us.”

The U.S. majors represented in Japan — United Intl. Pictures (which reps Par , Universal and MGM/UA product), Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Ent. (for Columbia/TriStar and Orion), Buena Vista Intl. and 20th Century Fox — posted impressive results largely because of a few blockbusters.

“Jurassic Park’s” rental returns exceeded UIP’s 1992 figure — at 8.4 billion yen ($ 76 million). “The Bodyguard” (4.1 billion yen or $ 37 million) was Warner’s all-time biggest earner in Japan. Meanwhile, the home team posted larger losses across the board: The top-grossing Japanese pic was Shochiku’s kidpic “Rex: Story of a Dinosaur.”

Toho and Toei also were well served by children’s fare. Shochiku also pulled in strong numbers for its 45th “Tora-San” sequel and its fifth “Tsuribaka” sequel.

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