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U.S. pix pack Japan

Distrib rev surges 23.3% in 1st half of '98

TOKYO — Buoyed by the record-breaking success of “Titanic,” film distribution revenue in Japan was up by 23.3% for the first half of 1998, compared with year-ago results, a Japanese financial daily has reported.

“Titanic” was one of seven U.S. films to break the Japanese hit determining line of 1 billion yen ($6.9 million) in distribution revenue for the January-June period of this year, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported, based on its own market survey.

There were also six Japanese films that cracked the 1 billion distribution revenue line in the first six months of the year to bring the number of hits to 13. In 1996 there were only 11 films that surpassed the 1 billion yen level in the same period.

“Titanic” tallied 15 billion yen ($103 million) in film distribution revenue while “Men in Black” was at 3 billion yen ($20.7 million), “Air Force One” hit 2 billion yen ($13.8 million) and “Seven Years in Tibet” was at 1.6 billion yen ($11 million), it said.

The success of the Hollywood films in Japan propelled foreign films to a 72.4% market share in the country for the first half of the year, the paper said.

The top Japanese film featuring the animated character Doraemon hit 2.1 billion yen in distribution revenue.

Japanese film industry figures are typically calculated by the distribution revenue and not by box office totals.

Despite Japan’s economic slump, the number of moviegoers was up by 14.8% to 80.3 million in the period, it said.

While there was plenty of activity in the theaters, the money was not spread evenly among Japan’s three big movie companies.

Toho Co., which runs the nation’s largest exhibition chain, was the only winner of the three, posting a 41.2% increase in revenue to 6.6 billion yen for the period. Shochiku Co., which had a management turnover at the start of the year, posted a 20.8% drop in revenue to 1.4 billion yen, while Toei Co. also fell by 43% to 2.4 billion yen.

The strong performance of summertime movies “Godzilla,” “Deep Impact” and the Japanese animated feature “Pocket Monsters” are expected to drive the revenue figures for the second half of the year.

In 1997, overall attendance was 140.72 million the highest since 1990. Total revenue in 1997 posted a 19% gain from 1996 figures to hit 177 billion yen ($1.22 billion).

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