Japanese distributor sets company record in '08

TOKYO — Boosted by helmer Hayao Miyazaki’s hit toon “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,” distrib Toho has set a new company record for annual box offices earnings. 

According to figures released Friday, Toho took in ¥70 billion ($778 million) by the end of November from 29 titles. It expects to reach $833 million by Dec. 31. This beats last year’s record of $661 million.

Toho’s biggest hit, “Ponyo,” released in July, has made $171 million to date. Eleven pics passed the ¥2 billion ($22 million) milestone, including dramady “Boys Over Flowers” ($86 million) and mystery thriller “Suspect X” ($55.5 million).

Toho also announced its 2009 lineup of 32 titles, with a B.O. target of $722 million.

Among highlights is “Zero Focus”, Isshin Inudo’s remake of a 1961 mystery helmed by Yoshitaro Nomura from a novel by Seicho Matsumoto. The pic, skedded for a fall bow, marks the 100th anniversary of Matsumoto’s birth.  

Heading the lineup is “Naku monka” (No Tears), a comedy by scripter Kankuro Kudo and starring Sadao Abe. The pair worked together on 2007 hit laffer “Maiko Haaaan!!!”

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