Hollywood pics move to dubbing in Japan

Younger auds, 3d spur break with tradition

TOKYO — In a push to attract younger auds to Hollywood pics, Paramount Japan has taken the unusual step of dubbing nearly half of the prints for current release “Shutter Island.”

It seems that not only do younger filmgoers prefer not to read, but the spate of 3D releases is harder to appreciate while reading subtitles at the same time.

Japan has long been a theatrical market where subtitles rule for all but kid-targeted toons and live-action pics such as the “Harry Potter” series. Foreign pics on network TV, however, are commonly dubbed.

Since the dawn of talkies, most non-Japanese films have gone out with subtitles. But the decision to release 188 dubbed prints of the Martin Scorsese at 42% of the 452 total locations, seems to be paying off.

“Shutter Island” opened April 9 atop the Japanese B.O. with $3.65 million. Paramount is hoping for at least a $20 million haul.

“There is a lot of visual information in the film — dubbing makes it easier to take everything in,” explains the pic’s local publicist Takayuki Washino.

Another, perhaps more pertinent reason: “Young people feel that reading subtitles is too much of a bother — and they’re a big part of our audience,” Washino adds.

Par was encouraged by the smash success of “Avatar,” which also played in Japan with dubbed prints. “Not just ‘Avatar,’ but all 3D films are rather hard for the audience to see. Dubbing helps them concentrate on the screen,” Washino explains.

It remains to be seen, however, whether dubbing can stop the market share slide of Hollywood pics in Japan. In 2009, local pics grabbed 57% of the market, compared with just 43% percent for all foreign pics. In 2003, when Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” scored $32 million at the Japanese B.O. — with subtitles — the percentages were reversed: 63 percent foreign, 33 percent domestic.

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