Local fare pushes out H’wood pix

Fuji TV hopes 'Shakedown 2' will be biggest non-toon grosser

TOKYO — It’s a hot summer at the Japanese box office. For the first time in years, Hollywood pictures crowding Japan’s limited number of screens during this all-important season have to cope with some serious local competition.

Coming weeks will show whether upcoming American fare can displace “Bayside Shakedown 2” (“BSD2”), the Fuji TV-produced and Toho-released sequel to the original police drama that hit screens five years ago.

“We are aiming for ‘BSD2’ to become Japan’s biggest-ever non-animated grosser,” says Mina Mita of Fuji TV’s film division.

This ambition doesn’t seem to be too far-fetched. “Bayside Shakedown 2” opened July 19 on 408 screens (itself a maximum for a local film) to a new first weekend record for a Japanese feature of ¥1.28 billion ($10.4 million), with a take of $15.15 million during its first three days. This is only 6.5% short on a per-screen ratio of this year’s biggest opening so far, for “The Matrix Reloaded” on June 7 with $11.13 million on 631 screens during its first weekend, and easily beating the Keanu Reeves starrer in total opening take.

The actioner pushed into an already densely populated box office summer, helped by excellent ticket presales (very popular in Japan) and maximum anticipation. “The Matrix Reloaded” started the season early, followed by “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” on 599 screens June 28. A week later local feature “Battle Royale 2” gave distrib Toei its best-ever opening weekend, with more than $2.8 million on 249 locations, followed by a hard hit from “Terminator 3” on July 12 with a smashing $9.4 million on 550 screens during its first two days.

With “BSD2” remaining in the top slot, two more major Hollywood offerings stormed onto screens Aug. 2. “The Hulk” started on some 450 screens, “Pirates of the Caribbean” on 290.

Add Toho’s “Pokemon 2003” on 309 screens, which also opened July 19 with a $3.75 million take, and Japan’s officially listed 2,700 screens are solidly booked with just six or seven films. There’s no room for much else in the remaining summer weeks.

Toho adds one wide release as a summer finale. On Aug. 30, the live-action manga adaptation “Dragon Head,” jointly produced with network Tokyo Broadcasting System, will see a wide release.