Japanese box office sales set record with ‘new animation generation’

BY The Asahi ShimbunFeb 21,2017 at 10:57

The Japanese box office hit a record high 235.5 billion yen ($2.09 billion) in 2016, as unconventional animated films scored big and advertising through social media took off, industry officials said.

The figure represented an increase of 18.39 billion yen from 2015, while admissions in 2016 were just over 180 million, up by 13.56 million from the previous year, Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan Inc. (Eiren) said Jan. 24.

It was the first time for admissions to cross the 180-million threshold since 1974.

“(The figures) recovered to the same level as just before home-use VCRs were released,” Eiren Chairman Yusuke Okada, who is also chairman for the Toei Group, said about ticket sales. “It is a positive sign for us to near our goal of 200 million.”

The number of moviegoers peaked at 1.1 billion in 1958, but the spread of TV sets and VCRs pushed the number down to under 120 million in 1996.

Eight of the top 10 highest-grossing Japanese films in 2016 were distributed by Toho Co., including top-ranked anime film “Your Name.” (23.56 billion yen) and monster blockbuster “Shin Godzilla” (8.25 billion yen).

Six animated films ranked among the top 10 highest-grossing Japanese films, a ratio unchanged from recent years.

“A Silent Voice: The Movie” ((c) Yoshitoki Oima, KODANSHA/ A SILENT VOICE The Movie Production Committee.

“A Silent Voice: The Movie”Photo: Yoshitoki Oima, KODANSHA/ A SILENT VOICE The Movie Production Committee. 

But one big difference in 2016 was that titles other than long-running popular series for young audiences attracted much attention.

The success of “Your Name.” was exceptional. Tenth-ranked “A Silent Voice: The Movie” (distributed by Shochiku Co.) and “In This Corner of the World” (Tokyo Theaters Co.), which ranked 23rd, also earned 2.3 billion yen and 1.5 billion yen, respectively.

“It was a year we saw the arrival of a new animation generation,” Toho President Yoshishige Shimatani said.

The popularity of many of the hit films expanded after they won awards at the Japan Academy Film Prize and other events.

“This is because the audience’s real feedback spread through social networking sites,” film journalist Hiroo Otaka said. “(The strategy of) attracting audiences by mass advertising is beginning to reach a breaking point.”

Foreign films earned 86.9 billion yen, a decrease of about 9.8 billion yen from the previous year. Japanese films accounted for 63.1 percent of the total gross, while imports contributed 36.9 percent.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was the highest-grossing imported film last year, earning 11.63 billion yen, followed by “Zootopia” (7.63 billion) and “Finding Dory” (6.83 billion).

(The Asahi Shimbun)

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