Japanese Box Office Tops $2B, Hits Third-Highest Total in 2018

Alex Bailey/Twentieth Century Fox
'Bohemian Rhapsody'

Hollywood's share stayed at around 45 percent, with imports logging $920 million in annual ticket sales.

The Japanese box office in 2018 was down just under 3 percent to $2.04 billion (¥223 billion) but still registered the third-highest annual total of all time, with admissions falling by a similar percentage to 169.2 million. The figures were announced by the Motion Pictures Producers Association of Japan (Eiren) at a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.

The share of import films stayed at around the same level as the year before, at just over 45 percent, pulling in $920 million. The total number of films released was up slightly, to 1,192, with imports accounting for 579, down from 593 in 2017.

"Even though the total box office was down, the previous year was strong, and it only fell a little, so you could say it stayed at a good level," said Eiren chairperson Yusuke Okada. 

The biggest-earning film was Bohemian Rhapsody, which was released in November but remains at number three on the box office charts after 12 weeks in theaters. It has taken $96 million (¥10.5 billion), including its box office since the start of the new year, with significant numbers of repeat admissions and special karaoke singalong screenings helping to drive its success.

Other big import hits included Jurassic World, which took $74 million (¥8.1 billion), and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with $69 million (¥7.5 billion).

Code Blue the Movie, a spin-off of a helicopter doctor team TV drama, was the biggest Japanese hit, taking $85 million (¥9.3 billion), followed by the latest installment in the Conan anime detective franchise, with $84 million (¥9.2 billion). Foreign language Oscar contender Shoplifters was the fourth-biggest hit of the year and second-biggest live-action release, with $42 million (¥4.6 billion).

Exports were up 29 percent to a record $284 million following six years of consecutive growth, with anime remaining the main driver, with sales to Netflix cited as a major factor alongside licensing of IP to Hollywood.

"A number of films based on our IPs are now being made in Hollywood, including Monster Hunter and Godzilla. Our character licensing business is also growing," said Yoshihige Shimatani, president of Toho, Japan's biggest studio and distributor.

The number of screens grew slightly, to 3,561, while average ticket prices were also up a touch, to $12 (¥1,315), due to an increase in 4D and Dolby Atmos screenings.