Japanese Box Office Down 18 Percent to $2.33 Billion in 2011 Due to Disasters

Tsunami in Japan

Lack of big blockbusters also to blame

TOKYO – Takings at the Japanese box office fell over 18 percent last year to 181.2 billion yen ($2.33 billion) as the March disasters and a lack of real blockbusters took their toll.

Admissions were down from 174.4 million in 2010 to 144.7 million for 2011. The mood of ‘jishuku’ or self-restraint, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, saw movie theaters quiet across the country.

Box office receipts for imported films were down more than 20 percent to 81.7 billion yen, while those for local releases fell over 15 percent to 99.5 billion yen. This was despite the total number of releases rising from 716 in 2010, to 799 last year.

Toho continued to dominate locally, with 18 of the top 20 grossing Japanese releases, pulling in over 59 billion. Toei accounted for the remaining two films in the local top 20, though it managed to boost receipts by 23 percent over its 2010 performance.

The latest Studio Ghibli release, Zokuriko Zaka Kara (From Up On Poppy Hill) was the biggest-earning local film, with 4.5 billion yen, followed by the latest Pokemon movie, with 4.3 billion. Steki na Kanashibari (Once upon a Blue Moon) from Toho and Fuji TV, in third place, was the biggest live-action grosser with just under 4.3 billion yen.

Disney was the top-ranked distributor of foreign movies, thanks to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (8.87 billion yen - $114 million), Cars 2 (3 billion yen), Tangled (2.6 billion yen) and Tron Legacy (2.1 billion yen).

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2 pulled in 6.7 billion yen and 9.7 billion, respectively, for Warner Bros. No film, local or imported, broke the 10 billion yen barrier – the traditional mark of a blockbuster in Japan – in 2011. Three films managed that feat in 2010.

Japanese independent Gaga had a strong year, doing 2 billion yen for The Three Musketeers and 1.8 billion yen for The King’s Speech.