According to figures compiled by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper, Japanese box office passed the $1.5bn (Y200 billion) mark in 2001 for the first time since records began in 1955.
At the same time, Japan's cinemas recorded a total of 160 million admissions in 2001 - the highest figure in fifteen years, since 1986.
Driving the record performance was the megahit Studio Ghibli animation Spirited Away, which surpassed Titanic's all-time record gross after opening in July of last year and finished the year with $215m (Y28 billion). Hollywood films also performed beyond expectations in 2001, led by A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, whose Japanese box office of $75m (Y9.7 billion) equals its US total.
The success of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone was less of a surprise, given the mega-sales of the J.K. Rowling books in Japan. Opening on December 1 on 340 screens, the film grossed $12m (Y1.57 billion) its first two days, breaking the previous record of $11.5m (Y1.5 billion) set by Star Wars Episode 1. It also recorded 1.38 million admissions, beating the opening weekend record set by A.I. with 1.01 million. By December 24 Harry Potter had earned $69.2m (Y9.0 billion), enough to boost it to third place for the year.
Fourth on the list was Pearl Harbor, which distributor Buena Vista successfully pitched as a love story, while downplaying Japan's bad-guy role. Boosted by intensive coverage in the local media, the film attracted hordes of dating couples during the peak summer season and finished its run with $53.8m (Y70 billion). Fifth and sixth places went to the dinosaur movies Jurassic Park III, with $40m (Y5.2 billion) and Dinosaur, with $37.7m (Y4.9 billion).
Japan 2001 Top 6
1. Spirited Away/Toho/July 20/ $215m
2. A.I./Warner/June 30/$75m
3. Harry Potter/Warner/December 1/$69.2m
4. Pearl Harbor/Buena Vista/July 14/$53.8m
5. Jurassic Park III/UIP/August 4/$40m
6. Dinosaur/Buena Vista/December 9, 2000/$37.7m