February 24, 2024

Japan‘s Fair Trade Commission on Tuesday approved a remedial proposal by Toho Cinemas, the country’s largest movie theater operator, not to apply unfair pressure on third-party film distributors.

The FTC opened an investigation into film booking practices in March of last year, having received reports that Toho Cinemas, which is also in the same family of companies as Japan’s leading distributor, had pressured other companies to only use its theaters.

In its decision, reported by Japanese media, the FTC said that it accepted Toho Cinemas’ proposed remedies and said that it would not need to issue a cease-and-desist order or take other punitive measures that the anti-monopoly laws allow.

The FTC explained that distributors choose so-called main cinemas as venues for promotional events (stage greetings, fan meetings and gala screenings). It found that since 2016 Toho would not accept film bookings at cinemas in its circuit unless a Toho Cinemas venue had also been designated as a main cinema.

At the time of the complaint, the Asahi Shimbun business newspaper mentioned ‘intimidation’ by Toho. But it did not explain in detail what it meant.

Toho is Japan’s biggest industry player. It is involved in production, distribution and, through Toho Cinemas, exhibition. Toho has long accounted for the majority of major box office hits. In 2021 Toho released or co-released five of the top ten highest-earning films, including number one “Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time,” a sci-fi anime film that made $92 million following its March 8, 2021 local release.

Toho Cinemas operates 677 screens at 72 theaters across Japan. In 2021, it posted JPY161 billion of local gross box office revenues with 115 million visitors, according to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan (Eiren).

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