Japan's Box Office Hit All-Time High in 2019

Weathering With You - Publicity Still - H 2019
Courtesy of GKIDS

Japan’s Oscar entry, Weathering With You

Hollywood films brought in $1.1 billion of the $2.4 billion total, the best showing since 2004, with Disney leading the pack. Japanese export earnings also logged a record, rising 15 percent to $328 million.

The Japanese box office jumped more than 17 percent to a record $2.39 billion (261 billion yen) in 2019, with admissions up more than 15 percent to 194,910, the highest attendance since 1971.

Despite a slowly shrinking population and the rise of streaming platforms, a strong lineup of films, rising wages for the young, low unemployment and a rise in leisure time due to government work reforms all helped drive the record box office numbers.

Hollywood's share rose slightly to 45.6 percent, its highest proportion since 2007, with imports enjoying an 18.4 percent boost in box office to $1.09 billion (119 billion yen), the highest figure since 2004.

It was a bumper year for Disney, which released the four top-grossing imports, led by Frozen 2 with $117 million, Aladdin pulling in $111 million, Toy Story 4 taking $92.5 million and Lion King, which brought in $63 million in Japan. Frozen 2 is still in theaters, falling from number one to three on last weekend's box office charts. Bohemian Rhapsody took a large chunk of its $121 million haul in 2019, but was released in November 2018, so was included in that year's figures.

Makoto Shinkai's Weathering With You was the biggest hit of the year in Japan, with the director's follow-up to smash hit Your Name pulling in $129 million.

Exports of Japanese films recorded a sixth consecutive year of record earnings, logging a 15 percent increase to $328 million. Average ticket prices rose just less than 2 percent to $12.30 (1,340 yen), while the number of screens edged up to 3,583. The number of films released in 2019 in Japan reached 1,278, up from 1,192 in 2018.

The figures also underline the fact that, even with the inevitable focus on China's rise, Japan remains a billion-dollar market for Hollywood.