Dentsu dusts off record book

TOKYO — Three movies released this year topped the list of the most popular products handled by Japanese advertising giant Dentsu Inc.

Japan’s all time box office champ “Mononoke Hime” (The Phantom Princess), “Shitsurakuen” (Lost Paradise) and “Evangelion” were the three films placed on Dentsu’s annual list of the biggest hits of the year.

The animated feature “Princess,” made for about $16 million, has taken in about $135 million at the box office. The movie from famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki is likely to top $150 million by the time its run in Japan finishes early next year.

Along with the record take at the box office, the movie produced an enormously profitable spinoff market for books, merchandise and other video titles from Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli.

Dentsu, one the movie’s four producers, also was able to create advertising tie-ins with several companies in which movie characters would appear in ads.

Publishing house Kadokawa Shoten Co. returned to the live-action movie business this year and scored an amazing hit with “Shitsurakuen.” The story of a tragic tryst between a 51-year-old office worker and the 39-year-old wife of a doctor led to windfall profits for the company.

The novel from Kadokawa by Junichiro Watanabe racked up sales of 2.65 million copies. The film took in just under $30 million at the box office, and a TV series on Nippon Television was one of the highest rated shows of the year for the network.

There was also a spinoff market attributed to what was described here as the “Shitsurakuen Boom.” Gossip magazine encouraged couples to try a little extramarital romance and travel companies had Shitsurakuen package tours for couples wanting to visit the love nest featured in the hit movie.

Kadokawa also scored big with the “Evangelion” animation. Two Evangelion movies were released this year and took in a total of about $40 million at the box office, and the publisher scored big with Evangelion book sales.

The company also helped build a merchandising market estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Some of the other hit products for 1997 include the virtual pet Tamagotchi, disposable face-cleaning tissue, Belgian waffles and discount taxis.

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