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Japanese films’ U.S. success spurs overseas strategy

TOKYO >> The Oscar successes of “Godzilla Minus One” and “The Boy and the Heron” are likely to push the Japanese film industry further toward an international strategy.

Toho Co., which produced and distributed the Godzilla film, established subsidiary Toho Global Inc. in July to supervise overseas operations, and Toho Global has begun working with a Los Angeles marketing subsidiary to plan projects in the U.S.

The U.S. release of “Godzilla Minus One” was the first in a series of projects overseen by Toho Global, which was solely responsible for distribution. Previously, distribution was assigned to a local firm.

“This move makes it possible for us to work smoothly toward the local release of films,” said a Toho official.

According to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan Inc., overseas exports of films have grown steadily since 2013.

Though exports increased only marginally in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they grew 13% year on year to about $480 million last year, about seven times more than the $65 million seen in 2013.

“The Japanese movie industry has been unable to surpass its goal of 200 million moviegoers annually in Japan,” said Shogo Tomiyama, chairman of the Japan Institute of the Moving Image.

This impasse has fueled the development of overseas markets, and the shift in focus “will likely grow more pronounced going forward,” said Tomiyama.

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