2010 Japan Box Office Sets Record with $2.66 Billion

The nation shrugged off a stagnant economy and a shrinking population to reach an all-time high.

TOKYO -- The Japanese box office had an all-time record year in 2010, pulling in 220.7 billion yen ($2.66 billion), defying a stagnant economy and a shrinking population to register the highest attendances since 1974. 

Domestic films had their best ever year, grossing 118.2 billion yen – just topping last year’s record numbers, while overseas fare recovered strongly from a poor 2009 to clock up 102.5 billion yen, according to figures from the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. 

2010 was the third year in a row that domestic product outsold imports, after having only so once in the previous 20 years. Nevertheless, foreign films clawed back a few points of market share, from 43.1 percent in 2009, to 46.4 percent, mainly on the back of Hollywood 3D blockbusters; Avatar (15.6 billion yen), Alice in Wonderland (11.8 billion yen) and Toy Story 3 (10.8 billion yen), were the three biggest hits of the year, irrespective of origin. 

The top domestic movies were the animated Karigurashi no Arrietty (The Borrowers) from Studio Ghibli, with 9.25 billion yen, 3D sequel Umizaru 3 The Last Message with 8.04 billion yen and another third installment, Bayside Shakedown 3 - Set the Guys Loose!, with 7.31 billion yen. 

The fourth-placed film, Toei animation One Piece Strong World, with 4.8 billion, was the only non-Toho distributed movie in the top 13 grossing domestic films of the year.  

Kokuhaku (Confessions), which missed out this week making the cut from short list to Foreign Language Oscar nominee, pulled in 3.85 billion yen to put it in seventh place domestically,  produced and distributed by Toho. 

3D ticket premiums helped boost average admission prices by around 50 yen to 1,266 yen, the first significant rise after years of gradual declines in an economy experiencing deflation. 

The population is also falling: at this month’s coming of age ceremony, a record low of 1.24 million people celebrated the fact that they will reach the age of majority (20) this year. And yet despite this demographic disadvantage, admissions neared 175 million, with the number of screens creeping up to 3,412. 

Toho, after another record year, is to experiment with reducing ticket prices in a number of areas from this spring in an attempt to boost attendances.