You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

H’wood eclipses local fare

Market share of Japanese pix falls 4%

TOKYO — It was business as usual in Japan’s distribution world in 2002. Although total box office receipts reached ¥196.8 billion, ($1.6 billion), the main earners were U.S. blockbusters led by the “Harry Potter” franchise.

No local film came close to the record of the Toho-distributed and Studio Ghibli-produced “Spirited Away,” which secured $270 million, straddling 2001 and 2002. The biggest Japanese hit of ’02 was Studio Ghibli toon “Cat’s Return: Ghibli’s Episode II,” which at No. 8 was the only homegrown production that made it on to the top 10 list, with a box office cume of $53 million.

The market share of Japanese films sank from 31% in 2001 to 27%, with Toho remaining the leader in Japanese distribution. Among 17 local films with ¥1 billion or more in box office receipts, the local major distributed 11 (including the top five), with competitor Toei coming in a distant second, handling only four Japanese pics.

Shochiku and Herald, which jointly distributed the first installment of the “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, profited from its healthy cume of $74 million, while Shochiku landed a surprise hit, in cooperation with Asmik Ace, releasing “I Am Sam” to the tune of $28.4 million (No. 10 among the top 10).

Sleeper hit of the year was youth-oriented “Ping Pong,” distributed by Asmik Ace, which struck a chord with viewers across a wider age spectrum with its portrayal of high school days. Starring hot thesp Yosuke Kubozuka of “GO”-fame, it grossed $11.7 million, in part thanks to a clever release build-up fueled by word of mouth.

It was a disappointing year at the box office for Gaga Communications and Toho-Towa, two strong indies in Japan. Gaga, which handled major hits like “The Green Mile” and “The Mexican” in the recent past, had to be satisfied with pushing the Hong Kong picture “Shaolin Soccer” to a satisfying $23.5 million box office cume, with “The Others” ($13.3 million) and “Austin Powers in Goldmember” ($9.2 million) completing a lackluster top three for the company.

Meanwhile, Toho-Towa had to look on as “XXX” and “Black Hawk Down” failed to grip. The first came away with $14.2 million, the latter with $10.8 million

As far as a prognosis for 2003 is possible, a repeat of last year seems realistic, although the balance among distribs might shift. Shochiku and Herald can rely on the second installment of “The Lord of the Rings,” while Gaga might be able to compensate for 2002 with high-profile products like “Chicago,” “Kill Bill” and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” in its lineup.

Among Japanese productions — and not counting the usual animated fare, Toho’s heavily advertised historical drama “Spy Sorge,” opening in June, might be a defining moment for local film production. It cost $14 million to make (pricy by Japanese standards) and is the latest work by veteran helmer Masahiro Shinoda. But many doubt that the story of a famous German spy in wartime Japan will attract the young-skewing film auds.

More Scene

  • John CenaSports Illustrated Sportsperson of the

    John Cena on WWE's Acceptance by Hollywood and the Professional Sports World

    John Cena says the WWE is finally getting the attention it deserves by Hollywood and the professional sports world. “I’m just glad that no longer are we looked down upon, not only by the sport industry, but by the performing arts industry,” Cena told Variety on Tuesday night in Beverly Hills at Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of [...]

  • Steve Carell Welcome to Marwen

    Steve Carell on New Film 'Welcome to Marwen' and Reprising His 'Anchorman' Character

    In 2000, Mark Hogancamp was nearly beaten to death by five men outside of a bar. Left with brain damage and little money to afford therapy, Hogancamp began creating miniature doll versions of himself, his friends, and his attackers as a way to cope. This true story inspired the 2010 documentary “Marwencol” and the upcoming [...]

  • Christian Bale'Vice' film premiere, Arrivals, Los

    Christian Bale Recalls Meeting Donald Trump: 'He Thought I Was Bruce Wayne'

    With Christian Bale‘s latest film, “Vice,” a political dramedy, it’s inevitable ties will be drawn between the film and the current political administration and its chief, President Donald Trump. On the red carpet for the premiere of “Vice,” Bale, who stars as former Vice President Dick Cheney, shared that he met the current president while [...]

  • Amy Poehler Is Ready for a

    Amy Poehler Is Ready for a 'Parks and Rec' Reunion

    Is Amy Poehler just getting our hopes up? We hope not, because the funny lady tells Variety that she’s ready for a “Parks and Recreation” reunion. “I am technically available,” Poehler said on Monday at Smart Girls’ 10th anniversary celebration dinner. “I have like six of Leslie’s blazers in my closet, so anytime.” “Parks and Recreation” [...]

  • Meredith Walker, Rashida Jones, Amy Poehler,

    Inside Amy Poehler's Smart Girls 10th Anniversary Dinner (EXCLUSIVE)

    “I’ve made an observation I’d like to share. I’m the only one that’s eaten my crab cake,” joked Amy Poehler as she addressed the room during the round robin introductions being made at her Smart Girls 10th anniversary dinner on Monday night. The 16 women at the table, who were so enthralled in the conversation [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron, Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de

    Alfonso Cuaron Says 'Roma' Is Better in Theaters

    Director Alfonso Cuaron opted to work with Netflix for his latest film “Roma,” but the decorated filmmaker isn’t discounting the importance of a big-screen viewing. “The complete experience of ‘Roma’ is unquestionably in a movie theater,” Cuaron said Monday night at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles for the premiere of “Roma.”  The streaming giant did [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content