Japan’s Biggest Theater Operator Links With VOD Service

Aeon Cinema launches collaboration with U-Next, designed to promote films shown on the big screen.

TOKYO – Aeon Cinema on Monday launched both its newly merged theatrical chain, Japan’s biggest with 609 screens, and a collaboration with the U-Next VOD service, the first of its kind.

“In the past, VOD services were seen as being in competition with movie theaters, but the idea behind Aeon Cinema Web Screen is to use VOD to promote the films being shown,” Hiromi Kuse, a spokesperson for Aeon Entertainment, told The Hollywood Reporter. “There are a lot of series films coming out of Hollywood these days, so the previous movies in the series can be promoted on VOD before the latest one is released in theaters.”

The U-Next VOD service features more than 65,000 titles and is available through TVs, computers and smartphones. The standard monthly fee is $20 (1,990 yen), which includes 630 Pay Per View points for premium content. Other payment options include a "7 Days & 1 Movie" card, available at convenience stores for $10 (990 yen), that allows a week's access plus one premium movie title and can be used without signing up for a monthly plan.

“The Pay Per View points can be used to get discount coupons at theaters, with 500 points worth 500 yen,” explained Kuse.

The Aeon Cinema group overtook Toho to become Japan’s largest theater operator by number of screens when Warner Bros. sold its share of the Warner MyCal venture as it exited the international exhibition sector.

Parent company Aeon Co. is the country’s biggest retail corporation, and many of the multiplexes are located in its shopping malls. The group is expected to announce record profits this week of $340 million for the first financial quarter, up 10 percent from last year, on sales of $14.4 billion.

Twitter: @GavinJBlair