Japan’s Gaga bows VOD service

Arthouse market suffers from theatrical decline

TOKYO — Gaga, one of Japan’s biggest indie distribs of foreign arthouse and other specialty pics, is to bow Gaga Theater, a VOD service for PCs, smartphones, tablets and other devices.

The initial lineup will be 41 pics, including “The King’s Speech,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Oceans” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” with more to follow.

Registered users will be entitled to an array of free goodies, including give-aways, footage of cast interviews and invites to preview screenings. Gaga also plans to use Gaga Theater to promo its theatrical pics in conjunction with Twitter, Facebook and other social network services.

VOD services are helping arthouse distribs in Japan stay afloat as theatrical revenues decline. Last year, Japan’s screens totaled 3,339, down from 3,412 in 2010, with many of the losses coming from the indie/arthouse sector. In Tokyo, theaters in the Ginza and Asakusa entertainment districts that have been in operation for decades have recently announced that they are closing for good, while the number of arthouses in the Shibuya district, a youth mecca for the entire country, has declined sharply in the past five years.

Fans in the provinces, where the nearest theater may be an hour or more away and even video shops are becoming scarce, will be Gaga Theater’s prime target.

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