Japan Box Office Makes Small 2021 Recovery, Puts ‘Evangelion’ and Toho on Top

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Cinema admissions in Japan increased by 8% over 2020, to 115 million. Box office grosses improved by 13% to $1.42 billion in the same period, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan (Eiren).

But compared to earnings of $2.29 billion on admissions of 195 million in the pre-pandemic era, last year was still way behind. In 2021, attendance was 41% below 2019 levels. Gross box office was 38% down.

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Local films, with earnings of $1.13 billion, grabbed a 79% market share, compared with 76% in 2020. They accounted for nine of the top ten box office titles for the year. Number one was “Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time,” a sci-fi anime film written and directed by Anno Hideaki, that made $90 million following its March 2021 bow.

The highest ranking live-action film, at number four with $40 million , was “Arashi Anniversary Tour 5×20 FILM “Record of Memories,” a concert film of the boy band Arashi, which retired at the end of 2020 after a county-wide concert tour.

The only non-Japanese entry in the top ten was “F9: The Fast Saga,” which earned $32 million after bowing August of last year.

Once again, Toho was the top distributor with five films in the top ten, including “Evangelion,” which it co-released with Toei and Anno’s Studio Khara animation house. The leading foreign distributor was Warner, which handled number five “Tokyo Revengers” ($39.5 million) and number six “Rurouni Kenshin The Final” ($38 million), both local productions.

Some 37 films exceeded the JPY1 billion ($8.8 million) mark considered the traditional benchmark for a commercial hit in Japan. By comparison, 65 films achieved that milestone in 2019.

In total, 959 films were released in 2021, compared with 1,017 in 2020 and 1,278 in 2019. Of this number 490 were local and 469 were foreign. Despite the two-year downturn, the number of cinema screens in operation rose to 3,648, compared with 3,616 in 2020.

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