Japan Box Office Springs to Life After Coronavirus Hiatus

Despite fears that the Japanese summer box office might be a lost cause, with many big Hollywood and local releases postponed, recent figures indicate that audiences, especially younger fans of hit TV shows, are returning to theaters after the coronavirus hiatus.

The number one film for the July 20-26 period, when Japan enjoyed a four-day holiday weekend, was the high school comedy “Beginning Today It Is My Turn.” Following its July 17 release, the film has passed the JPY3 billion ($28 million) milestone.

Directed by veteran hitmaker Yuichi Fukuda, the film is a feature iteration of a highly rated 2018 TV drama on the NTV network that was in turn inspired by a 1980s gag manga about blustering and battling delinquents. On July 25 NTV rebroadcast episodes of the shows to give the film a publicity boost.

Meanwhile the number two film, caper comedy “The Confidence Man JP: Princess,” looks likely to reach the JPY4 billion ($38 million) mark after opening on July 23 on 344 screens nationwide. This compares with the previous, pre-corona “The Confidence Man JP” film, which finished with $28 million in 2019. Both films derive from a popular 2018 Fuji TV drama.

Masami Nagasawa, the star who plays a glamorous scammer in the film, has been active on the PR front, following similar labors for “Mother,” the hit Tatsushi Omori drama in which she stars as the controlling single mom of a troubled son. Opening on July 3, “Mother” is currently ranked at number five.

Japan imposed a national emergency between April 7 and May 25, 2020. What followed was a voluntary theater-by-theater, chain-by-chain process, with no single date when all theaters closed or reopened.  And, even after reopening, most theaters did not begin showing new films until well into June. The country has recorded 31,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 998 deaths from the disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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