2009 Box Office Review - Japan - Part 3
With the successes of top ranked “Rookies,” fifth ranked “Pokemon” and 2008’s “Boys Over Flowers”, manga and anime continue to be important source material in Japan. Except for the “Spider-Man” franchise, film adaptations of non-Japanese comic-book superheroes don’t seem able to transcend the genre. Reasons for this lack of success are varied but the themes of these international films are often times considered too mature for young audiences. Japanese families embrace the familiar and risk-free local franchises.
Although this year’s top title “Rookies” earned Y8.6 billion at the box office, it represented just over half of the receipts of 2008’s box office hit “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” which took Y15.5 billion. “Pokemon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life” and “20th Century Boys- Chapter 3” came in second and third both for domestic films as well as overall box office performance for the year.
Of the top five grossing domestic films, Klock Worx was the only distributor to break Toho’s hold on the market. “Evangelion: 2.0” came in fourth for the year and is a sequel to 2007’s "Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone" directed by Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki and Masayuki. “Evangelion” was based on the 1995 animated Japanese television series created by Anno.
Powerhouse distributor Toho dominated the charts this year with new titles “Amalfi“ (¥3.65 billion), “Detective Conan: The Raven Chaser” (¥3.5 billion), “Gokusen The Movie” (¥3.48 billion) and “April Bride” (¥3.2 billion) following as the next top performers.
Shochiku/Nikkatsu’s release of “Yatterman,” based on the animated 1977-1979 Fuji television series created by Tatsuo Yoshida, came in number nine for the year with box office receipts of ¥3 billion and was the only other film not distributed by Toho to make the top ten.
Toho’s “Crows II” rounded out the top ten with ¥3.1 billion in cumulative box office revenues.
To capitalize on the changing tastes of the movie going public, smaller film importing and distribution companies have also started to produce and distribute Japanese films in addition to the three major Japanese producers of Toho, Toei and Shochiku. Hollywood studios have followed suit through their local branches as Warner’s demonstrated the potential of this with box office revenue of over ¥10 billion for three domestic films-- “Death Note,” “Death Note: The Last Name” and “Brave Story” in 2006. That said, that success for any studio has yet to be replicated.
Japan’s Asmik Ace recently released the country’s first live-action 3D feature, “The Shock Labyrinth.”
2010 brings Yoshihiro Nakamura’s "Golden Slumber" which is a man-on-the-run story and "Ototo", about a young girl who cares for her younger bother who is battling a terminal disease.
"Ototo" is Oscar nominated Yoji Yamada's first contemporary drama in a decade, since "Jugo-sai Gakko 4" (2000) and reunites Sayuri Yoshinaga and Tsurube Shofukutei.
Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s feature debut “Karigurashi No Arrietty”, written by Hayao Miyazaki, based on UK fantasy author Mary Norton’s beloved 1952 novel “The Borrowers.” Yonebayashi (Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea, Howl’s Moving Castle) is Studio Ghibli’s key animator and the film will be released by Toho.
French director Tran Anh Hung will direct Ken’ichi Matsuyama and Rinko Kikuchi in “Norwegian Wood,” an adaptation of the Haruki Murakami1987 book for Christmas time release from Toho.
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.