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Could an aging population save Japan’s independent cinemas?

by

Special To The Japan Times

Only a few years ago, movie industry pundits sighed and said that cinema was dead (again), and that streaming networks would soon sweep that corpse aside.

Thankfully, they were wrong. Tokyo’s movie theaters have been revived, and the good news is they’re not all multiplexes showing blockbusters. Of course, the Toho Cinema franchise is the undisputed king of the Japanese movie theater, but small neighborhood joints aren’t doing too bad either.

“5 Flights Up” opened at both the Cine Switch Ginza and the Ebisu Garden Cinema last weekend, and screenings were packed with the 50-plus crowd, eager to see septuagenarians Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman. Then at the Marunouchi Toei Theater in Ginza, 300 people gathered to catch a glimpse of Hiroshi Tachi (65) and Kyohei Shibata (64) when they showed up to commemorate the last installment of their enormously popular “Saraba Abunai Deka” series that first graced the screens three decades ago. Across town, the National Film Center is now showing the works of Kenji Misumi, whose samurai and “Zatoichi” movies used to be the hottest things in the late 1950s and early ’60s. And Jinbocho Theater has put together a series on Izumi Ashikawa, whose adorable baby face adorned movie posters everywhere in the mid-’60s.

The operative word to describe this whole revival? “Old.”

Armed with senior discount rates, older moviegoers are rediscovering the fun of watching films in the theater and seeing their favorite stars on the big screen. A super-aged society does have its perks.