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Berlin: Uplink Mini Theater Offers New Space for Art Movies in Japan

Japanese distributor Uplink has teamed with department store group Parco to open an art house multiplex at Musashino, in west Tokyo.

The five-screen complex, being built inside Parco’s Kichijoji store, will expand the opportunities for indie and foreign films in Japan. In recent years, Japan’s box office has become increasingly focused on local Japanese blockbusters, at the expense of Hollywood movies and, especially, foreign arthouse titles. An increase in Japanese buying power would be welcomed by sales companies at the Berlin Film Festival and European Film Market.

In the 1980s and 1990s, so-called mini theaters, which imported films and ran their own programs, made Japan a large market for foreign art films. Sometimes films played only on single screens, but could be kept in theaters for months, earning millions of dollars. In the last 10 years, mini theaters have struggled and closed as Western-style multiplexes have pushed them out.

“Despite the recent closing of mini theaters in Tokyo in the last decade, Uplink has been running a (three-screen) micro-mini theater in Shibuya for nearly 20 years. We believe there is still a strong demand for independent films. And by programming a number of films to run in five theaters in a small capacity of each theater, we believe there is still a potential that can work very well,” Uplink said.

The 300-seat complex will be co-owned by Uplink and Parco and managed by Uplink. It is set to open this winter.

In 2016, Uplink was an investor in “Endless Poetry,” the surreal fantasy by Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky.

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