Cinemas destroyed, Tokyo Disneyland temporarily closes

Amid the devastation caused by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that deluged vast parts of Japan on Friday, the country’s entertainment industry is tallying the losses and taking stock of how to proceed. Many cinemas were destroyed or closed down, while Tokyo Disneyland is closed for at least 10 days.

The few screens still operating in the northern Tohoku and Kantoregions, the worst hit by the quake, are set to be hit by power blackouts today.

Tokyo Electric Power was due to start rolling blackouts to compensate for the shortfall caused by the failure of two nuclear plants.

Many theaters in the region have been shut down.

Number one exhib Toho closed all 27 of its theaters there on Saturday. The Shochiku chain shuttered its Tohoku sites.

Warner Mycal, which operates the country’s second largest theater chain, closed 25 multiplexes in part of Niigata prefecture as well as Tohoku and Kanto.

A Warner Mycal spokesman said, “If we don’t confirm the safety (of the theaters), it will be difficult to reopen.”

One exception is the Toei chain’s Marunouchi theater in Aomori City, which is screening “Wasao,” a pic shot in the region about a cute runaway dog, based on a true story. Toei said that, after checking projection systems, it went ahead with skedded screenings on Saturday.

The power blackouts will extend to five areas including sections of Tokyo and surrounding suburbs where many multiplexes are sited. The length of the daily outages will range from three hours and 40 minutes to seven hours and 20 minutes total. The blackouts are expected to continue until the end of April, and may resume in the summer when power needs surge.

The blackouts will deal another blow to box office earnings. According to TV reports, weekend theater attendance was down by half in Tokyo. Exact figures will not be available until Tuesday at the earliest.

Many weekend events were cancelled, while upcoming events hang in the balance.

Distrib Shochiku said that it is considering delaying or cancelling the March 26 opening of Chinese earthquake pic “Aftershock,” based on a quake that struck China in 1976. The company had earlier said it was going ahead with the release despite the Feb. 23 New Zealand quake.

Shochiku planned to use the pic’s opening to raise money for the NZ victims, but now that disaster has hit closer to home, it is reconsidering.

A special “Aftershock” screening skedded for Friday evening at Tokyo’s Kudan Hall was cancelled. The hall’s roof collapsed on Saturday, causing two deaths and 25 injuries.

A theater event skedded for Friday in Tokyo to celebrate the opening of the local thriller “SP,” with star Junichi Okada greeting fans from the stage, was cancelled along with Saturday’s opening event for Disney toon “Tangled” and for sci-fier “FlashForward” on Sunday. However, “Tangled” opened in 156 theaters to a $1.6 million gross.

An estimated 55,000 people opted to stay at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea Friday night after transportation was shut down due to the quake. Staff provided hot food and drinks as snow fell.

Park operators said the quake did little damage to buildings and attractions, although the car park was inundated with water, and that they would assess when to re-open March 21.

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