2009 Box Office Review - Japan - Part 2
Toho scored its second best year ever with ¥65 billion in revenues and was the territory’s highest grossing distributor for the seventh consecutive year with seven of the top fifteen titles and an additional co-release in the rankings for the year. However, Toho’s market share dropped 7% in ’09 from 40% in ’08 even with an additional three releases (40). Toho had had incredible success with 08’s top two releases, Miyazaki’s animated children’s fantasy “Ponyo” (¥15.5 billion) and manga based sequel “Boys Over Flowers 2” (7.8 billion) which helps to explain the market share fall-off this year. Top grossing “Rookies” helped to drive Toho’s performance this year.
The company owns more than 500 of Japan's 3,359 screens and their theater share for this year’s slate was approximately 27%, just shy of ‘08’s 29%. Toho handles only Japanese films and their activities span film production, distribution and exhibition, television, video, music and stage.
Sony Pictures Releasing International (SPRI) recorded their best year in the territory with major success from “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” and “2012”(¥3.8 billion), as well as contributions from “Quantum Of Solace” (¥2 billion), ”Angels & Demons”(¥3.3 billion) and “Terminator Salvation” (¥3.3 billion). With 26 releases, Sony finished in second position and almost doubled their market share to 10% across 26 films from tenth position in ’08 when they had four fewer films and a 4% market share. Sony’s ¥20 billion box office gross reflected five weeks at number one.
Toei also saw their best year ever with a 50%-plus rise in revenue to ¥17 billion across 22 films, driven by hits “The Summit: A Chronicle Of Stones” (¥2.6 billion) and the latest Kamen Rider film (¥1.9 billion). Toei controlled a 9% market share with only Eiichiro Oda’s, “One Piece Film Strong World,” the 10th film in anime series he created, falling in the top ten.
Warner Bros. and Shochiku each had 25 films, though Warner’s was able to earn a ¥17 billion box office total and a 9% market share to Shochiku’s ¥15.7 billion, boosted by “Departures’” post-Oscar extended run as well as the “Harry Potter 6” release. Warner’s dropped to fourth place distributor from second position in ’08. Schochiku had two shared (one with WB) and three independent releases that grossed more than ¥1 billion for the year while Warner’s also had three independently released titles that grossed more than ¥1 billion.
Toho Towa rounded out the top five distributors with ¥15 billion in cumulative box office across 21 films, a 7.5% market share and two winning weeks.
20th Century Fox and Disney were next, both with ¥10 billion in cumulative box office and a 5% market share though Fox’s numbers were slightly ahead, followed by Paramount’s ¥6.5 billion cumulative box office take and a 3% market share standing. The studios saw their total market share drop to 32% with the surge in Japanese produced features.
Local distributor Gaga represented a 3% market share this year on revenues of almost ¥6 billion and finished the year with the tenth best performance. In 2008 Gaga, a large acquirer and producer of films, lost ¥62.6 billion and was then sold in July 2009 in a management buyout for only ¥1.5 billion.
Movie-Eye, another important independent with a 1% market share in 2008, accrued debt of more than ¥32.8 billion before they were forced to close their doors this year. The closure of local distributors who were primarily acquirers of product help to explain the 74 title reduction in film imports from the previous year.
In Japan, fantasy science fiction is just about as popular as it gets for with “Harry Potter,” “Avatar,” “20th Century Boys” and Roland Emmerich’s “2012” (¥3.8 billion) all creating excitement at the box office and collectively earning ¥17.5 billion by year’s end. The international films dominated this genre.
Japan is unique in that dramas represent a third of the titles in top performance for the year, primarily due to the success of “Rookies.” “Amalfi” with ¥3.6 billion is the next best performer in this genre at less than half of “Rookies’” gross. That said, ten dramas all earned better than ¥2 billion at the box office with “I Give My First Love to You” (¥2.2 billion) at the bottom of those winners. Love stories are always popular here.
Like most territories of the world, kids are one of the most important audience components in Japan in order for a film to be a hit. Kids’ preference for local films where they don't have to read subtitles is obvious but also reinforces the increased difficulty for live action foreign films to appeal here. Six of the top ten titles this year are animated films but the leader in this genre is Disney’s “Up” with a ¥4.8 billion cumulative box office total. “Pokemon”, “One Piece Film Strong World” and “Evangelion: 2.0” with ¥4 billion in box office are all animated sequels and made it in to the top ten of overall performance for the year.
Sequels to action films also remain popular with new releases of “Red Cliff Part II,” “Terminator Salvation” (¥3.3 billion) and Toho’s “Crows II” (¥3 billion), all falling in the top twenty for the year.
Only two comedies, a significant difference from the rest of the world, Toho’s local production “Gokusen The Movie” with a box office gross of ¥3.5 billion and Fox’s import of “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” with ¥2 billion in receipts were in the top 30 for the year, making Japan quite unique in this respect.
Local production “Pandemic” (¥1.9 billion) couldn’t displace Tom Hanks in “Angels and Demons” (¥3.4 billion) to take the horror crown.
Ellen Pittleman, http://hybridentus.com, is a veteran studio executive based in Los Angeles. Most recently, she served as SVP, International Co-Productions and Worldwide Acquisitions for Paramount Pictures. She also launched the DVD Premiere group there, with films including Jonathan Demme’s “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” and the sequel to the $100MM+ “Save the Last Dance.” Working from a marketing and distribution perspective, she consults on strategic planning, deal negotiation, acquisitions, film library valuation and feature development with clients from Rio to London to Beijing. She’s also currently developing a feature on George Foreman’s comeback years, among other projects.