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Tokyo Festival Boss Addresses Film Industry’s Shifting Power Balance

Tokyo Festival: Takeo Hisamatsu on Film’s
Patrick Frater

Takeo Hisamatsu, newly installed as director of the Tokyo International Film Festival, is confident that festivals have an ongoing role, despite the many challenges they face.

“The mission of a festival is to develop film culture, and to provide opportunities to see non-commercial films that you normally don’t get to see,” he said Thursday at a meet the press event. Takamatsu took over earlier this year as Tokyo prepared for its 30th anniversary edition. “It is also our industry role to help young Japanese creators and actors to step out and reach the world outside.

Among the challenges are piracy, streaming video and what he called “the shifting power balance” within the global film industry. He pointed to how Japan has become less important to Hollywood – both in relative and absolute terms – affects the festival’s ability to secure major studio titles as opening film.

“In the past Hollywood films had 70% of the box office in Japan, that is no longer true. These days it is more like 50-50, or even a majority for Japanese films. Also Hollywood is looking at the changing dynamic, and interesting films coming from China,” he said. “When I worked at Warner Brothers we used to spend JPY1.5 billion ($13 million at current exchange rates) on marketing a film in Japan, but these days without the box office they can’t justify the cost, or the stars’ private jets. And, as a festival, we need the (studio) distributors to support the campaign.”

None of that seemed to worry the festival’s competition jury, which earlier in the day held its own media event. Sitting next to a wisecracking Tommy Lee Jones, Chinese actress and director Vicky Zhao Wei, said that festivals “provide an opportunity for film fans and filmmakers like me to fall back in love with cinema.”