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Film industry in Japan - statistics & facts

The Japanese film industry is probably best known internationally for its popular productions of animations (anime), horror or monster movies. What is less known is that it is not only one of the largest film industries worldwide, but also one of the oldest. The first film screening in Japan dates back to 1897 in Osaka. What started with filming kabuki performances developed into U.S.-influenced silent movies, before unfolding into war and samurai movies. The 1950s are usually regarded as the golden age of Japanese cinema, with works such as Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story being released during this time. Another success story was the release of the first Godzilla movie in 1956, which laid the foundation for the popular kaiju (monster) movie genre. In the more recent decades, Japanese animation, spearheaded by movies such as Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira in the late 1980s or Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away in the early 2000s, saw a surge in popularity fascinating Japanese and foreign audiences alike.

In 2018, the Japanese filmed entertainment revenue, which was comprised of both cinema and home video revenue, ranked third on a global scale behind the U.S. and China. As of 2019, box office gross receipts amounted to more than 261 billion Japanese yen. Despite the size of the market, Japanese movie production companies do not possess the same amount of budget as their Hollywood counterparts. Next to original scripts it is common to adapt already successful material, such as stories and settings of novels and manga. Some of the most successful domestic titles in recent years were based on this formula, such as the animated Doraemon and Detective Conan movies.

The film industry can be divided into three stages: production, distribution, and exhibition. In Japan, it is not uncommon for one company to handle all three stages. Filmmaking in Japan has been dominated significantly by the “Big Four” companies which also have engaged in these three elements: Shochiku, TOHO, Toei, and Kadokawa. Almost 1,280 movies were released to Japanese cinemas in 2019, more than half of them being Japanese productions. Because of language and cultural barriers, Japanese film and broadcasting programs are not universally popular like Hollywood productions, but they are becoming increasingly known outside of Japan.

While the demographic situation does not look promising for the country's entertainment industry, and other forms of entertainment, such as streaming services, have increased the competition for movie theaters, the annual number of admissions to theaters in the 2010s tended to be higher than in the 1990s. Prompted to a significant degree by the unexpected success of the movie Your Name released to cinemas in 2016, total theater admissions hit a record high that year not seen since 1974. In 2019, the number of admissions turned out to be even higher, amounting to almost 195 million visitors. Next to the release of hit movies, this success can be explained by several factors. The tight labor market 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 a 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 businesses to promote movies as well as platforms for consumers to rate and discuss movies.

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Film industry in Japan

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