Theater film imports plunged in 2012 amid digital cinema onslaught


Japan’s imports of theater films have been plummeting, according to Tokyo Customs data collected on trade through Narita airport last year.

This is because the number of theaters showing digital movies has been rising since the release of the three-dimensional U.S. hit “Avatar” in Japan in late 2009.

According to Tokyo Customs, about 90 percent of films imported to Japan pass through Narita airport in value terms.

Annual film imports through the airport totaled between ¥1.2 billion and ¥1.9 billion, mostly between 2003 and 2010. But imports plunged to ¥700 million in 2011 and ¥300 million in 2012.

In Japan, digital-format screens first appeared in 2007, according to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. There were 98 that year, accounting for only 3 percent of all movie screens in the nation. But that rose to 980 in 2010, or 28.7 percent, and 1,991 in 2011, or 59.6 percent.

Tokyo Customs also said that overall goods exported through Narita airport dropped 15 percent year on year to ¥7.841 trillion in 2012, while imports rose 2.0 percent to ¥9.425 trillion.

As a result, imports exceeded exports by about ¥1.584 trillion, the most on record.

Exports of integrated circuits, optical instruments and chip-making equipment plunged by between 11.8 percent and 18.9 percent.

In terms of value of exports handled, Narita was overtaken by Nagoya port in 2012 after being ranked tops in Japan since 1997.