Tokyo Film Festival Head: Cinema Will Persevere, Streaming Is Just Another Platform

Courtesy of TIFF
Takeo Hisamatsu

Takeo Hisamatsu, in his first year running the event, also acknowledged the recent difficulties in securing Hollywood tentpoles to open the Tokyo festival.

Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) director Takeo Hisamatsu dismissed the threat to cinema and film festivals from the growth of Netflix, Amazon and other streaming platforms, suggesting they were simply another platform, like television or home video.

"The issue of streaming became something of a topic at Cannes this year. At one time, films had to be seen in the cinema, but then they became viewable via various mediums, like video and television," said Hisamatsu. "Streaming is one more way to access films; in the future there will be various different platforms."

Hisamatsu, who took over running TIFF from April this year, took questions from the media on Thursday at the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo that serves as the focal point of the festival.

TIFF will continue its "fundamental mission" to "develop the culture and industry of cinema," as well as "act as a stepping stone for Japanese directors and actors to go out into the world," Hisamatsu said.

The new TIFF chief also acknowledged the growing challenge of securing high-profile world film premieres for the Japanese event. 

The festival had aimed to land the premiere of a Hollywood tentpole as this year's opening film, with Blade Runner 2049 its top target, but had to settle for Fullmetal Alchemist, a local live-action adaptation of a manga/anime franchise. Last year's opener, Florence Foster Jenkins, had already screened in most major markets before it came to Tokyo. Twenty years ago TIFF hosted the world premiere of Titanic, while in more recent years Disney's Big Hero 6 debuted at the fest.

"There used to be a gap of around six months between the release of films in America and Japan, but now the timing is much closer; that makes it more difficult in terms of promotion to get big films," Hisamatsu said in answering a question from The Hollywood Reporter about securing a big opener.

The growing importance of the Chinese market, where many U.S. studios now hold their celebrity junkets in Asia, and the reduced promotion budgets of the Japanese branches of the Hollywood majors were also issues, according to Hisamatsu.

"If the stars come on their private jets, that alone costs 70 million yen [$615,000]. The festival doesn't have a big enough budget, so we have to rely on the distributors," he added.

Asked about the prospect of a big title to open the fest next year, Hisamatsu replied, "I'll try — I'm not sure at the moment. It's difficult."

The result will likely come down to whether "the timing is right," he added.