Cimema Complexes in Tokyo

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Cinema complexes vie for customers
Sachio Nikaido / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Cinema complexes in big cities have stepped up efforts to win back film fans, many of whom are now content to watch movies at home on wide-screen TVs with high-quality audio equipment.

To fight back against the home theater trend, cinema companies have even formed coalitions to jointly manage cinema complexes to win back customers.

On July 19, Shochiku opened the Shinjuku Piccadilly movie theater--with 10 screens and 2,237 seats--in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. The movie house is one of the biggest in central Tokyo.

The building features a white interior to make movie posters and trailers show up more effectively. It also employs cutting-edge audio technology and devices, including large speakers that are normally used for music concerts.

The facility's biggest attraction is its wide variety of luxury rooms and seats, including a "platinum room," which costs 30,000 yen per screening per couple, and "platinum seats," which cost 5,000 yen per seat.

Morito Ito, vice director at Shochiku's movie promotion department, said, "We want to attract 1.5 million people [to Shinjuku Piccadilly], and make it the top-ranked cinema complex."

The Shinjuku Wald 9 cinema complex, which has nine screens and 1,825 seats, opened last year and is situated about 300 meters from Shinjuku Piccadilly. Digital projectors are installed in all its theaters--a first for a cinema complex--to provide enhanced colors and images.

Shinjuku Wald 9 theaters are located on the ninth to 13th floors of a building in Shinjuku, where people can enjoy a night view of the area from its escalators.

Another pioneering cinema facility was launched two years ago by a Sumitomo Corp. affiliate, United Cinemas, in the Toyosu district of Tokyo.

Featuring a luxurious atmosphere, the cinema complex also houses a cafe bar.

"The number of movie viewers [at the cinema complex] is gradually increasing," says Satoru Tabei, marketing director of United Cinemas.

There are now 2,450 screens in cinema complexes in the nation, following the launch of the nation's first in 1993 in Kanagawa Prefecture.

However, the number of moviegoers seems to have peaked, with numbers hovering between 160 million to 170 million each year since 2001.

On the other hand, video and DVD rentals increased by 30 percent in the 2002-2007 period, according to the Japan Video Software Association. Video distributed via the Internet also is said to be on the increase.

To help combat these trends, rival movie theater operators are teaming up for the battle. For example, Shinjuku Wald 9 is jointly managed by Toei affiliates T Joy and Toho Cinemas.

The two movie companies and Shochiku will jointly open a cinema complex in the Osaka Station building in Osaka in 2011.

University of Digital Content Prof. Masakazu Akiyama, an expert in movie theater business trends, said, "The key to success for the cinema complexes is providing different kinds of enjoyment, in addition to movie viewing."

(Jul. 28, 2008)