Hollywood movies have not been doing well in Japan over the past decade, but Walt Disney’s 2013 animated film “Frozen” might end the country's box office cold spell as it blew all the other movies away last year, increasing foreign films' share of all ticket sales. In fact, the blockbuster performance of "Frozen" helped Japan's ailing film industry get back to levels it has not seen since 2010, according to numbers released by the Motion Pictures Producers Association of Japan (MPPAJ) on Tuesday, possibly indicating a reversal of prevailing cool attitudes toward imported films.
“Frozen,” known in Japan as “Anna and the Snow Queen,” brought in 25.5 billion yen ($216 million) alone, accounting for 12 percent of all box office sales totaling 207 billion yen ($1.76 billion), including local and imported films. That makes “Frozen” the third-highest grossing film of all time in Japan – the top spot goes to Japanese animated film "Spirited Away" by Studio Ghibli, with 30.4 billion yen ($258 million); "Titanic" by 20th Century Fox places second at 26.2 billion yen ($222 million). Japan’s box office -- where sales have been tumbling and have not exceed 200 billion yen until 2014 -- rose 6.6 percent from 194 billion yen ($1.65 billion) last year, the most since the 2010 record of 220 billion yen ($1.8 billion), .
Imported films commanded 42 percent of all receipts, comprising 86.3 billion yen ($733 million), a steady downward trend from when imported films commanded 73 percent of all ticket sales in 2002. By comparison, 2014’s top Japanese film was “The Eternal Zero,” a World War II kamikaze drama with 8.76 billion yen ($74 million) in gross receipts. “The Eternal Zero” stayed the number one movie from Jan. 4 until Feb. 9 for six weeks, while “Frozen” remained in the top spot for 15 weeks from March 15 to June 29 before being dethroned by Disney’s “Maleficent.”
The success of “Frozen” can be attributed to the popularity of cast who lent their voices for the film. Actresses Sayaka Kanda and Takako Matsu were celebrated talents in Japan and their star power gave the film a publicity push upon its release. "I went to see it because everyone was talking about it, and the critics were all raving about it in the newspapers," 83-year-old Tamiko Mizune told the Hollywood Reporter. "The themes were simple but strong, the animation was stunning and the songs came over well. The ["Let It Go"] phrase really captured people's imagination. Nearly everyone I know has seen it." Matsu's Japanese version of the song “Let It Go” has more than 88 million views on YouTube.
2015 is primed to bode well for animated films, with Disney’s “Big Hero 6” and Japanese film company Toho’s “Yo-kai Watch” each raking in about $60 million in ticket sales thus far, box office tracker Kogyo Tsushinsha indicated, according to Reuters. Both are in the top three rankings of films in Japan.
Photo: Japanexperterna (CC BY-SA)