September 7, 2009 / 10:12 AM / 10 years ago

Toho says Hollywood losing luster in Japan

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toho Co Ltd (9602.T), Japan’s largest movie company, said the country’s fading interest in Hollywood movies has cast a cloud over its growth prospects, overshadowing a boost from a revival in Japanese films.

Toho is both Japan’s biggest distributor of movies and its largest theater operator, with a nationwide network of some 70 cinemas housing 560 screens.

“The popularity of Japanese movies is a very good thing for us as a distributor but in terms of our cinema operations the drop-off in Hollywood movies is not something to smile about,” Toho President Hideyuki Takai told Reuters in an interview.

Toho posted a 16.5 percent jump in operating profit for the year ended in February, boosted by the runaway success of the Japanese animation “Ponyo” and other popular home-grown productions.

In July the company raised its profit forecast for the current business year by 10 percent on the back of strong sales from Japanese films, but its new estimate still represents a fall of about 20 percent from a year earlier.

In addition to the lack of a blockbuster on the scale of “Ponyo,” the sluggish performance of Hollywood films is expected to drag on Toho’s earnings. Last year Japan’s box office revenue from foreign movies fell by nearly a quarter.

“It was unexpected. I have never experienced something like this in my movie industry career. Up until now Hollywood movies have been the engine of the industry,” Takai said.

($1=93.20 Yen)

Reporting by Taiga Uranaka

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