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Japan sees B.O. slump

Plexes mushroom but receipts drop by 6.5%

TOKYO — “If you build it, they will come” — the memorable line from “Field of Dreams” — did not hold true for Japan’s movie market in 2000. Screen numbers increased by more than 10%, but B.O. slumped by 6.5%.

Receipts for the world’s second-largest movie market hit 170.9 billion yen ($1.45 billion) in 2000 as multiplex building pushed screen numbers up by 303 to 2,524, the Motion Picture Assn. of Japan said in its annual survey of the local movie mart.

Ripple effect

Local MPA topper Isao Matsuoka said the string of bankruptcies for some of North America’s biggest exhibition chains will be felt across the Pacific and slow the burgeoning Japanese multiplex business.

“We were expecting the number of screens to top the 3,000 mark soon, but looking at the situation in the United States, it may take us some time to reach that figure,” Matsuoka said, adding that he expects Japan to add about 100 new screens in 2001.

Multiplexes came to Japan seven years ago and have captured about 44% of the market, with foreign plexes accounting for 539 of Japan’s screens, he added.

Slim pickings in 2000

The lack of Hollywood blockbusters and powerful local product depressed ticket sales in 2000, but the MPA expects 2001 to be a record year because of a strong slate of Hollywood pics and the release of a new movie from Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, whose last film, “Princess Mononoke,” topped $150 million in B.O. receipts.

U.S. product gained the lion’s share of the Japanese market, with foreign films grabbing a 68.2% share, almost unchanged from the previous year.