Cinema: Stirrings amid Stagnation

Do a few good films signal Japan's return to world class?

Twenty-five years ago, it was among the healthiest of Japanese industries: six thriving studios produced 503 films that sold more than 1.1 billion tickets in 7,067 theaters. Today, in an entertainment world that moves to Sony Walkman rhythms and Pac-Man blips, Japanese cinema is troubled and timid. The five studios that have survived the national movie recession of the past decade or so—Toho, Toei, Shochiku, Nikkatsu and Daiei—find their profits in real estate, supermarket chains, Kabuki theater troupes and bowling alleys. Most of...

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