Japan box office down

Revs down compared to same time last year

TOKYO — The Japanese B.O. for the first half of 2008 is sharply down compared with the same period last year, according to figures compiled by the Bunka Tsushin entertainment news service.

The January-to-June take among the 13 top distribs totaled $746 million, down 14% from the first half of 2007.

The top three domestic distribs — Toho, Shochiku and Toei — combined for a total of $366 million and a 49% market share. The five US majors with distribution operations in Japan, however, could scrape up only $270 million, for a drop of 33%.

The five remaining companies in the top 13 — Toho-Towa, Kadokawa Pictures, Gaga Communications, Asmik Ace and Showgate — together earned $110 million for 12%. In contrast to the anemic perf of the majors, Gaga and Showgate, which handle slates loaded with imported U.S. indie product, grabbed a total of $73.4 million, up 23% and accounting for a 9.8% market share.

A strong summer, particularly with the toon blockbuster “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” and the romantic comedy smash “Boys Over Flowers” filling theaters, has given the second half of the year a strong start and has boosted the market share of the local distributors.

Meanwhile, with a second half line-up that includes new entries in the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” franchises, which have huge following in Japan, as well as the Pixar toon “Wall-E,” Hollywood has reasonable prospects of ending the year on a up note.

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