'Potter,' 'Samurai' help Warners top U.S. distribs

SYDNEY — Collectively the Hollywood majors are enjoying a strong year in Japan, their biggest theatrical market outside the U.S.

The studios racked up $688 million in B.O. receipts through the end of September, nearly 25% ahead of the same period last year.

Retaining the crown it’s held since 2001, Warners was the top U.S. distrib, clocking $283 million (up nearly 33%), driven by “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “The Last Samurai” and “House of Flying Daggers.”

Disney’s BVI garnered $148 million, followed by Sony’s $98 million, UIP’s $88 million and Fox/MGM’s $69 million.

Spurred by local hits including “Crying Out for Love in the Center of the World” and “Nin X Nin Ninja Hattori Kun,” Toho was the No. 1 Japanese distrib, collaring $308 million.

Shochiku harvested $173 million and Toho racked up $75 million, giving those Japanese majors a total of $556 million, 18% up from last year.

All told, the Japanese B.O. totaled $1.384 billion through the end of September, up 2.8% from last year.

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