Japan Renews Status as World’s Third Largest Box Office Market

Cinema admissions in Japan grew by 32% in 2022, reaching 152 million, according to data published Tuesday by the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan (Eiren).

In revenue terms, Eiren shows cinema box office growing by almost the same proportion to $1.24 million. That cements Japan’s position as the world’s third largest box office territory behind only North America and China.

The Eiren data for 2022, however, diverges significantly from figures from other sources as it runs from December 2021 to November 2022. That means it omits December when “Avatar: The Way of Water” was released and when box office worldwide received a significant lift.

Given that Eiren’s data for 2018-2019 showed earnings of $2.00 billion from admissions of 195 million, the 2021-2022 figures appear still substantially below-pre-COVID levels.

(Global box office tracking service and analysis firm Gower Street Analytics reported Japan box office in the calendar year 2022 as $1.5 billion and calculated that last year end up less than 10% shy of the 2017-2019 average.)

Local films continued to dominate, but less strongly as Hollywood returned in greater force after two weak years. Japanese titles earned $11.12 billion for a 69% market share, down from 79% in 2021. According to Eiren, “Top Gun: Maverick” with $105 million, was the top imported film, in a top ten with four.

The three highest earners of 2022, however, were all local and all anime. The number one was “One Piece Film Red” with $151 million, the highest-ever gross in the venerable “One Piece” franchise. Second was “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” with $106 million, ahead of anime auteur Shinkai Makoto’s “Suzume” with $101 million.

The highest ranking local live-action film, with $40 million at number five, was “Kingdom 2: To Distant Lands,” Shinsuke Sato’s follow-up to his hit 2019 “Kingdom,” a period actioner set in China during the Warring States period (475 to 221 BCE).

Once again, Toho was the top distributor, with six films in the top ten, including “Kingdom 2,” which it co-released with Sony Pictures Japan.

A total of 41 films earned the JPY1 billion ($7.7 million) considered the traditional benchmark for a commercial hit in Japan. By comparison, 65 films achieved this milestone in 2019.

Altogether 1,143 films were released in 2022, up from 959 in the previous year. Of these, 634 were Japanese and 509 were foreign, compared with 490 and 469, respectively, in 2021.

The number of cinema screens in operation declined by less than 1% slightly from 3,648 in 2021 to 3,634 last year.

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