The Japanese box office makes a small recovery in 2021, “Evangelion” in the lead


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

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

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

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 by retired boy band Arashi end of 2020 after a county-wide concert tour.

The only non-Japanese entry in the top ten was “F9: The Fast Saga”, which grossed $32 million after losing in August 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 main 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 surpassed the 1 billion yen ($8.8 million) mark considered the traditional benchmark for commercial success in Japan. For comparison, 65 films reached this milestone in 2019.

A total of 959 films were released in 2021, compared to 1,017 in 2020 and 1,278 in 2019. Of these, 490 are domestic and 469 foreign. Despite two years of decline, the number of cinema screens in operation rose to 3,648, compared to 3,616 in 2020.


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