Japanese distrib earns $817.5 million

Toho, Japan’s biggest distributor, earned $817.5 million at the local box office in 2008. Its third year of record growth reflects the strength of local pics as well as the success of its strategy of teaming with major TV networks to produce and release pics.

Toho’s biggest movie of the year was Hayao Miyazaki’s toon “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,” which has earned nearly $170 million since its July bow.

The $42.7 million B.O. for December was down on December 2007, an indication that, as the recession bites and purse strings tighten, Toho may find it tough to set another record in 2009.

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