Toho tops distribs in Japan

Best performer with 27.91% market share

TOKYO — In 2004, Japan’s top 12 distributors domestically grossed a total of ¥194.4 billion, or $1.79 billion at the average exchange rate for last year, initial annual computations show.

Top performer was Toho Co. with ¥54.25 billion in gross receipts (27.91% market share), followed by Warner Bros. Japan (WBJ) with ¥33.95 billion(17.47% market share). WBJ could hold on to its crown as top distrib among the local branches of Hollywood majors. Buena Vista Intl. Japan followed in third place (¥20.9 billion), barely ahead of local major Shochiku in fourth (20.5 billion yen).

A 37.23% increase in box office revenues for Toho, Shochiku and Toei compared with the previous year shows Japanese films are regaining their audience: Toho and Toei distribute only local fare and Shochiku has increased its Japanese slate considerably, clocking some major successes during the past year.

Popular on Variety

Shochiku alone more than doubled its box office revenue. Toho increased it by 28.64% without a major blockbuster like “Bayside Shakedown 2” in 2003, while Toei slipped 4.5%.

The take among the five Japanese branches of Warner Bros., Buena Vista Intl., 20th Century Fox, UIP and Sony Pictures increased by 5.79%. The biggest gainer was Sony, up 72.8% from 2003 results, while WBJ slipped 3%.

The generally stellar performance by top companies compares with a drastic decline in revenues among independent distribs Gaga/Humax, Nippon Herald, Asmik Ace and Toho Towa. Their combined B.O. revenue for 2004 fell by almost half (47.88%) compared with the previous year.

Eiren, the Motion Picture Producers Assn. of Japan, will announce the official total tally for all films early this week.