H'wood back on top at Japan b.o.

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TOKYO -- After a rough year by its normal standards in 2006, Hollywood is back on top of the Japanese boxoffice charts.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and "Spider-Man 3" comfortably eclipsed Japanese titles in 2007, according to statistics released Thursday by the Motion Pictures Producers' Association of Japan.

"Pirates" grossed 10.9 billion yen ($102.8 million) after its release in May, the latest adventures of the boy wizard earned Warner Bros. 9.4 billion yen ($88 million) and "Spider-Man 3" came in third with 7.12 billion yen ($67 million).

The best performing Japanese film by far was "Hero," the latest vehicle for local heartthrob Takuya Kimura, which took in 8.15 billion yen ($77 million). Following "Hero" was "Pokemon: The Rise of Darkrai," a summer release for the school holidays that earned 5.02 billion yen ($47 million) and "Always -- Sunset on Third Street 2," with 4.56 billion yen ($43 million).

And while the Japanese industry overall will have been disappointed to have slipped back in terms of earnings in 2007, distributor Toho can celebrate the fact that it backed 10 of the top 11 local titles of the year.

Only Shochiku's "Love and Honor," which came in fifth with 4.11 billion yen ($39 million), prevented Toho from a clean sweep.

According to the association, total boxoffice income fell to 198.4 billion yen ($1.86 billion), down 2.2% from the 202.9 billion yen ($1.9 billion) recorded in 2006, though admissions were down a mere 0.8%.

Japanese titles accounted for 47.7% of the revenue, down from 52.3% a year earlier.

A total of 407 Japanese films were released in 2007, down narrowly from 417 in the previous year, but still a major increase from the 281 released as recently as 2001.

The association also was keen to point out that the number of movie screens increased to 3,221 in 2007, up from 3,062 in the previous year.
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