Monday, August 11, 2014

The East Asian Box Office: The Entertainment Press Gets Its Say

I have often remarked here on the trend in the hugely important markets of East Asia (China is the world's second-biggest, Japan's the third) toward the consumption of more domestically produced product, and fewer Hollywood movies.

My thoughts were a reaction to the films I saw topping the box office in China, Japan and South Korea in the past decade, but a more systematic examination only supports that conclusion, as an article in Film Business Asia showed last May. Indeed, the article notes that in 2013 "one hundred films from East Asia made more than US$10 million at their local box office," securing "a combined box office of US$3.41 billion."

Mark Schilling in his article "Why Hollywood No Longer Dominates Japan's Box Office" notes that the market share of foreign films in Japan fell from 67 percent a decade earlier to roughly half that (34 percent) by 2013--which also marked the fifth straight year in which they failed to exceed a fifty-percent share of the market.

These are impressive chunks of not just the local market to which Hollywood has paid so much attention in recent years, but the whole world market.

Of course, even if Chinese, Japanese and South Korean moviegoers are less apt to choose Hollywood, some American movies still do massive business in this region. Disney's Frozen was a megahit, pulling in close to a quarter of a billion dollars in Japan alone, and another $125 million in China and South Korea. The preceding year, Monsters University was a colossal success, while the comedy Ted was also a hit.

Still, it is increasingly being recognized that audiences are more selective regarding the American films they do. Schilling's thought, after noting the big business those American films did, is that Disney-style family films can still do well here, and that even if Ted is not exactly that, "Japanese audiences love cute, even if they get their cute from a vulgar, substance-abusing animated bear."

By contrast, they're not much for "dark and depressing"--the American entertainment industry's adoration of "dark and gritty" perhaps costing it in this part of the world.

Hollywood and the East Asian Box Office, 2013
The Japanese Box Office 2002-2012: An Untold Story

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