Japanese films flourish in China amid K-pop crackdown

by MARIKO TAI / December 13, 2016 / Nikkei.com

BEIJING — Tensions between Beijing and Seoul over the deployment of a missile defense system may be spilling over to the cultural realm, with Japanese movies getting an unexpected boost in China from faster approval and increased exposure.

“Your Name” has taken China by storm, topping the box office here for the week after its release Dec. 2.

“I will watch it again … and perhaps again,” said Shi Guang, a 23-year-old male student who just finished seeing the Japanese animated blockbuster for the fifth time.

Ticket revenues have reached 494 million yuan ($71.4 million) in 10 days — on the verge of surpassing the 530 million yuan record for Japanese films in China, set last year by the animated title “Stand by Me Doraemon.”

“Your Name” is one of 10 Japanese movies screened on the mainland in 2016 after years of the authorities allowing none or next to none. China is now showing an exceptional openness to Japanese content on the heels of giving the cold shoulder to entertainment from South Korea. Beijing and Seoul have been locked in a dispute over the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea.

“The film is full of Japanese culture, from shrines to schools … I was concerned that it might not be too welcomed by Chinese audiences,” said CEO Yukihiro Kashiwaguchi of Access Bright, which oversees the movie’s distribution in China.

But for fans, simply being able to see “Your Name” at theaters in their own country came as a welcome surprise. “I didn’t expect it would be shown on the mainland,” said Shi, a devotee of Japanese anime and manga. Movie buffs in China know how a government quota on imported films limits access to the world’s second-largest market.

The quota, though not clearly outlined to the public, is set at 64. The Japan External Trade Organization reports that for 34 of them, profits are shared between foreign distributors and Chinese companies. The remaining 30 are titles whose rights have been purchased by local companies. Usually, the majority of the quota goes to profit-making Hollywood blockbusters. The 10 Japanese films screened this year marked a big jump from last year, when just two animated titles were allowed.

Even more surprising was the speed. “Your Name” opened here about three months after its Japanese release. With an involved application process in which the government scrutinizes content, it can easily take six months on average for Japanese films to reach the silver screen in China.

Korea’s pain, Japan’s gain? Read more…

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