The film and movie industry can be divided into three stages: production, distribution and exhibition. In Japan, it is not uncommon (or prohibited by law like in the U.S.) that all stages are handled by one company. Filmmaking in Japan has been dominated significantly by the “The Big Four” companies who have engaged in the three elements: Shochiku, TOHO, Toei and Kadokawa Pictures. Japanese theaters released about 1,190 movies in cinemas in 2017, more than half of them were Japanese productions. Because of the language and culture barriers, the Japanese film and broadcast programs are not universally popular like Hollywood production, but they are becoming increasingly known outside of Japan.
In 2017, the Japanese film industry ranked fourth on a global scale behind the U.S., China and India, with approximately 228.5 billion Japanese yen of box office gross receipts. Like other industries, film companies suffered major losses from the economic crisis in recent years and had to give up the number one spot in Asia. However, there are a few developments that point to a much brighter future for Japanese filmmakers and distributors.
Prompted to a significant degree by the unexpected success of the movie “Your name” released in cinemas in 2016, total theater admissions hit a record high that year since 1974. Results of a comprehensive survey about people in Japan going to the movies revealed that the rate of young people watching movies at cinemas increased in the past 30 years. The shrinking labor force has recently resulted in higher wages for younger workers, enabling them to spend more money on leisure activities. Moreover, the increasing number of single households has led to an growing number of cinema visitors as young people seem to prefer sharing the experience of film watching with friends and family outside, instead of staying home alone. Another factor influencing the film consumption positively, is the intensive use of social media which serve as platforms for business to promote movies as well as platforms for consumers to rate and discuss movies.