The nation looks to expand its business overseas following devastating events that killed nearly 20,000 people last year.
TOKYO – One year on from the triple disasters that killed nearly 20,000 in Japan this time last year, the entertainment business is back on its feet and the theatrical market remains the second-largest in the world, despite a slowly shrinking population.
The domino disasters of the magnitude 9 earthquake, the devastating tsunami, and the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant hit the whole entertainments industry in the months after March 11. TV stations lost tens of millions in revenue as advertisers pulled commercials for weeks, to see them replaced by public service messages. The annual box office took a $325 million hit as cinemas were largely deserted through the same sombre period as the nation mourned.
While advertising has returned to television, and audiences to theaters, every aspect of the entertainment business is working to adapt to the realities of a weakening domestic market and aging population.
Like other sectors of Japanese industry, the country’s entertainment companies are looking to expand overseas to compensate for a future that will see revenues squeezed at home as the number of young consumers continues to fall. Japan’s video game giants, Sony and Nintendo, face the added threat to their business model posed by the shift away from dedicated consoles to cheaper smartphone alternatives, in addition to the strong yen making their exports more expensive.
The strong currency has also led to something of a recovery in the buying of overseas titles by Japanese distributors after falling audience numbers for foreign fare years. Nevertheless, domestic films continue to outsell Hollywood at the box office.
The industry now faces the challenge of becoming more international and increasing its overseas presence, even as dwindling numbers of Japanese youth are less in thrall to all things foreign.
Following a week of almost blanket television coverage of one-year memorial programs tracking the recovery from the disasters, the victims will be remembered at services around the country on Sunday March 11, including one with the emperor, empress and prime minister at the New National Theatre in Tokyo.