I was curious to know how LOTR was doing in Japan, where LOTR is less familiar than in the West and which has its own tradition of fantasy. It’s been open for about a week [since Feb. 24 or so] and I’ve had a series of reports from Bruce, who lives in Yokohama, and while it’s too early to tell whether it’ll achieve the same cult status as it has here, the opening weeks look promising:

“There is the possibility that LOTR will be a smashing hit in Japan. That may have less to do with the tale found in the Tolkien books than with Peter Jackson’s action filled movie, but that doesn’t matter much, in the end, anyway. As evidence that is may be a biggie:

“1) As I mentioned in an earlier email, originally, there were to be only three “preview” shows to be shown on the 23rd at the movie theater that I normally go to. An extra showing was added, and the first three shows were sold out. I would guess that the last show was also sold out. This was in the biggest theater in the complex.
2) The movie theater chain has enough confidence that it is selling pre-reserved seats for the first week after the opening on March 2nd, expecting a big demand.
3) The movie has been dubbed in Japanese. Normally, foreign movies shown in Japan are shown with sub-titles. Dubbing means that there will be an expected younger crowd who would have trouble with reading fast enough. It also means that there will be at least two theaters out of eight booked up with LOTR.
4) There will be two TV specials on LOTR shown, at least. The first was shown last Saturday on Fuji Television, one of the sponsors for bringing the movie to Japan. Another will be shown as part of one of the more popular TV quiz shows. The show will be centered on Tolkien’s England and the movie.
5) Full page ads have been taken out in major Japanese and English language newspapers.
6) In the past it was almost impossible to find Japanese translations of the Lord of the Rings at most bookstores. They were there, but you almost had to ask a sales clerk to show you. Now, when I go into a Japanese bookstore, there is a separate display only for Lord of the Rings. Besides the paper back books, there are hard covers versions, Japanese versions of the “Official Movie Guide” and even, a Japanese translation of Karen Wynn’s Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle-earth.
7) Japanese movie audiences generally do not cheer or applaud during and after a showing. However, when the credits started to roll, almost no one left the theater. Of course, May it Be and In Dreams was playing at that time, but even after that, as the credits continued to roll, people stayed on.
8) I’ve introduced three or four Japanese people to Lord of the Rings, showing my downloaded trailers, etc. They were all hooked. I am going again; they tell me that they are going again.
19) The main movie going audience in Japan are young people. By the time that the movie officially starts, the Japanese spring break (the major break of the school year) will have started. This great movie going market segment will be ready to fill the screens. There will be competition from Monsters, Inc. (opens 3/2 also) and A Beautiful Mind (opening soon). But LOTR should do very well indeed.

“None of this is really hard evidence of potential success, but I think the movie will do very well.

“…I went back to see LOTR on the day of its official opening on March 2. At the mutiplex theater we went to, there were 10 shows that day, in three different theaters. Seven of the shows were subtitled, three were dubbed. From what I could see, all the shows, with the expection of the first subtitled one, were sold out, even the late show which started at 8:50 pm – the one that I attended. Besides that, the theater was doing a brisk business selling the official movie pamphlet. So, in answer to your original question, I think that the movie is going to do very well in Japan. It is certainly in a lot of theaters in the Greater Tokyo area.”