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Japan: Exhibs embark on 3D screen-building spree

Cannes 3D Report: Japan

The top three pics at the Japanese box office last year — “Avatar,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Toy Story 3” — were all 3D and most fans saw them in that format, but the number of 3D screens lagged behind demand, especially in the provinces.

That is changing as Japanese exhibs add 3D screens in anticipation of more 3D offerings (that bring higher ticket prices). According to figures compiled by Texas Instruments Japan, 770 screens in Japan were 3D capable as of March 25, some 20% of the total number of screens. This is expected to rise to about 40% in 2014 and 80% by 2018.

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor crisis that shuttered theaters in the northeast of Japan on March 11 and after may slow this 3D expansion, but will hardly stop it. The worst-affected regions of Tohoku and Ibaragi account for only 7% of admissions nationwide, while the region’s 3D screens mostly survived, despite structural damage.

Exhibs have recently screened an array of alternative 3D offerings, such as concert and fashion docs. Local producers are also making more 3D pics, including “Tofu Boy” (Tofu kozo), a full-CG, 3D toon that is the first of its type in Japan. Warner Japan released pic April 29.

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