Japan’s Toho sets B.O. pace

Run of hit pics sets distrib ahead of pack

With one smash film after another so far this year, Toho, Japan’s biggest domestic film distributor, is way ahead of the competish.

In the first five months of the year, Toho earned $227.8 million, more than twice as much as top foreign distrib Buena Vista and more than the $220.9 million for the foreign majors — BV, Sony, Warner, Fox and UIP — combined.

Toho’s run of hits began with Koki Mitani’s ensemble comedy “Suite Dreams” ($52 million), and continuing with dramedy “Star Reformers” ($17.4 million) and toons “Doraemon” ($27.8 million), “Detective Conan” ($26 million) and “Crayon Shinchan” ($13 million).

Its biggest hit, however, is sea actioner “Umizaru 2: Test of Trust,” which is soaring toward $65.2 million.

“Suite Dreams,” “Star Reformers” and “Umizaru 2” all are from the Fuji TV hit factory.

Still to come from Toho this summer are the last film in the “One Missed Call” horror trilogy; disaster epic “Japan Sinks”; the latest “Pokemon” installment; and Studio Ghibli toon “Tales From Earthsea.”

Toho was the top domestic distrib in 2005, accounting for nine of the top 10 B.O. films. Last year, Japanese films grabbed a 41.3% market share. This year the local share may reach 50% for the first time since 1985.

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