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‘Star Wars’ Japan stop set

TOKYO — The “Star Wars” reissue juggernaut is poised to make an assault on Japan, its final major foreign market, and 20th Century Fox (Far East) is rolling out a huge promotion campaign for the intergalactic trilogy.

“Star Wars” will open in Japan on May 31. The Japanese box office is expected to be the most lucrative among all the overseas stops the trilogy has made, according to Toshio Furusawa, national marketing director for Fox in Japan.

$17 mil ad push

“Star Wars” will run for five weeks, and “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” will each have three-week runs.

Fox is bankrolling an approximately 2.2 billion yen ($17.5 million) ad campaign to make sure the trilogy dominates Japanese theaters over the summer.

The ad money is about the same Fox spent to pitch “Independence Day” and “Die Hard With a Vengeance” in Japan. Some of the partners for the Japanese campaign include Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pepsi, Nintendo and Toys R Us.

When “Star Wars” first hit Japan 20 years ago, the movie was a smash, but sales of “Star Wars” goods paled in comparison to U.S. sales. This time around, “Star Wars” is also expected to dominate at the toy store.

Fox said it has already reached about 60 licensing agreements with Japanese companies to produce items such as hologram watches, prepaid telephone cards and videogame software for the Nintendo 64-bit game player.

Fox has also lined up some unconventional partners for a “protect the Earth” conservation campaign being pitched with “Star Wars” posters.

About 190,000 posters have been sent nationwide, at a costing of about $124,000 paid by the governmental Environment Agency and its local branches, national parks, roadside visitors centers, media offices and environmental research centers.

The company has also enlisted about 32,000 taxis to help pitch the movies. Since the start of April, “Star Wars” ads have been placed in front of cab passengers in a campaign that is expected to reach 6.4 million people.

“We are trying to get complete nationwide saturation for our advertising campaign,” Furusawa said.

The targeted audience in Japan is similar to other markets. Fox is trying to reach people who have not seen any of the movies in the theater as well as to rekindle the nostalgic urge that will get people to see the movies one more time on the bigscreen.

The company is offering a trilogy ticket package for $38, as compared with the $43 price for purchasing the tickets separately.

The buzz for the movie is slowly mounting. Over the weekend, TV networks started to include special reports on “Star Wars” during daytime talkshow programming, and the number of reports on TV and in the press will likely snowball before the film opens.

Furusawa said the “Star Wars” trilogy has a special appeal for the Japanese audience.

Classic appeal

“The story of learning spiritualism from a master is one of the most often-told tales in Japanese folklore. There are numerous archetypes for Luke Skywalker in Japanese legends,” he said, adding that Japanese auds quickly picked up that the light saber was modeled after a samurai sword and that Darth Vader wore a helmet in the same shape as a Japanese warrior’s.

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