Japan to release over 400 films in 2006

1973 was last time it released so many pics

TOKYO — Some 360 Japanese films have been released since Jan. 1, beating last year’s 356 and on course to reach over 400 releases. The last time this happened was in 1973, which saw 405 releases.

According to figures compiled by the Bunka Tsushin industry newsletter, local releases hit 360 on Nov. 4 and, given current trends, are likely to finish north of 400 for the year.

Also, six Japanese films have passed the ¥5 billion ($42 million) mark that’s considered a megahit at the local B.O. Among them are Studio Ghilbli toon “Tales of Earthsea” ($66 million), sea actioner “Umizaru 2” ($61 million) and disaster pic “The Sinking of Japan” ($44 million).

Meanwhile, the two “Death Note” pics — the first released June 17, the second Nov. 4 — are building a combined gross that could top the Japanese side of the chart for the year or even hit the ¥10 billion mark. The first pic finished with $24 million and the second nearly doubled its opening take.

Another contender for the 2006 B.O. crown is “Nana 2,” the sequel to the smash hit 2005 pic about two 20-year-old women with the same first name but radically different personalities — one a cheery good girl, the other a sneering punk rocker — who become roomies and friends. The first pic grossed $34 million, and “Nana 2,” if the trend holds of local sequels surpassing the take of the hit originals, is likely to do even better following its December bow.

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