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Disney's 'pearl Harbor' Is Box-office Smash In Japan


Original Poster
by Richard Verrier / Los Angeles Bureau
Posted July 17, 2001 in the Orlando Sentinel
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LOS ANGELES - Japanaese moviegoers jammed theaters to see Walt Disney's epic movie Pearl Harbor over the weekend, giving Disney the biggest ever opening for one of its films in Japan.

Although Pearl Harbor has garnered decent numbers domestically, it hasn't been the blockbuster that Disney executives had predicted.

But the movie took in $7.2 million in box-office receipts from 430 theaters across Japan, making it the sixth-best debut of all time in Japan, said Mark Zoradi, Disney's head of international distribution.

Some critics thought the movie, which tells a love story amid the 1941 Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor, would flop in Japan because of its delicate subject matter.

So Disney officials were delighted by the strong initial results.

"We are excited with those numbers," Zoradi said. "We knew going in we had a marketing challenge with a subject matter and American military theme and film that's three hours long."

To make the film more palatable to Japanese audiences, Disney's marketing and trailers for the movie played up the love story aspect of the movie, rather than the surprise attack that launched the United States into World War II.

Disney said it also made some minor edits in the film, which it spent $12 million to market in Japan, to make it less inflammatory to the Japanese. Overseas markets such as Japan can account for about 50% of overall box-office receipts for American movies.

Pearl Harbor's strong debut in Japan suggests the movie will do better overall than some expect, said Paul Dergarabedian, President of Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, which tracks the movie business.

"Japan was the wild card in people's minds," Dergarabedian said. "A lot of people thought it would not do well there ... but it hasn't turned out that way. Disney has done a good job of playing up the love triangle rather than the war aspect."

After 14 weeks, Pearl Harbor has amazed just more than $190 million thus far, plus another $150 million overseas. Disney officials say the film, which cost $140 million to produce and nearly that much to market worldwide, will turn a profit.

Zoradi predicts the film will eventually outpace its domestic run, with $250 million or more overseas. About 30,000 Japanese viewers got a first preview of Pearl Harbor during a lavish premiere last month in Tokyo.

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