According to annual data published today by The Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan (Eiren), overall box office revenues for 2008 totalled $2.164bn (Y194.84bn), a 1.8% decrease from 2007's $2.204bn (Y198.44bn).

The figure represents earnings on 160.49 million admissions, a 1.7% drop on the previous year's 163.19m cinemagoers. The average ticket price decreased slightly to $13.48 (Y1,214) from $13.51 (Y1,216) in 2007. While still the world's most expensive place to see movies, ticket presales, group discounts and special campaigns have helped nudge prices down. Some 2008 releases such as My Darling Of The Mountains simply offered a lowered ticket price.

In terms of market share, local films gained a massive 22.4% increase over 2007 results for a 59.5% portion of total earnings, reaching $1.287bn (Y115.86bn). Japanese films took back the upper hand they won in 2006, which had been the first majority for twenty-one years.

Earnings of Hollywood and other imported releases dropped 23.9% for a total of $877.17m (Y78.98bn), the lowest earnings this decade. Imports' 40.5% share marks the lowest since 1969.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was one of just two Hollywood titles and three imports to crack the top ten, earning $63.42m (Y5.71bn). While there were less tent pole releases, global hits The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Kung Fu Panda far underperformed in the territory. However, Hollywood is set to have a banner year in Japan with with new installments in proven franchises The Da Vinci Code, Terminator, Harry Potter and Transformers.

Hayao Miyazaki's $172.15m (Y15.5bn) earner Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea led local success, followed by second place Boys Over Flowers ($86.07m). As in recent years, top performers were dominated by TV and manga adaptations and the usual animation franchises.

Eight of last year's domestic top ten were distributed by Toho, who also manage 554 screens as Japan's biggest exhibitor. Toho amassed $820.86m (Y73.91bn), representing 38% of the entire market. The figure broke previous records for the third consecutive year.

Shochiku was the second ranked distributor with $177.92m (Y16.02bn), a 2.2% increase. Its biggest achiever of 2008, Departures ($33.87m), received an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film.

Toei's revenues increased 40% with the success of Partners: The Movie ($49.31m), its first top ten hit since late 2005's Yamato.

Warner Brothers was the leading Hollywood distributor with $182.03m (Y16.39bn) in earnings. Aside from Indiana Jones, Warner's I Am Legend ($47.87m) was the only other American release in the top ten. Warner also benefitted from its ongoing activity in local production and distribution, including L: Change The World ($34.43m).

A total of 418 Japanese films were released theatrically, versus 388 foreign titles, greatly widening the gap from 2007's 407-403. The screen count again sharply increased to 3,359 from 3,221. Exhibitors compete for overall admissions and revenues that remain flat while facing costly maintenance of aging facilities. The saturation has begun to lead to closures and a slowing down of new construction.

Overall video industry revenues (rental and sales) dropped more drastically than theatrical, falling by 11.2% to $3.51b (Y361.3bn) on 697.33 million customer transactions.

Japan TopTen 2008(Combined):

Title (Distrib) Gross

1. Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea (Toho) - $172.15m (Y15.5bn)

2. Boys Over Flowers: Final (Toho) - $86.07m (Y7.75bn)

3. Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (PPI) - $63.42m (Y5.71bn)

4. Red Cliff Part 1 (Toho-Towa/Avex) -$56.09m (Y5.05bn)

5. Suspect X (Toho) - $54.64m (Y4.92bn)

6. Pokemon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior (Toho) -$53.31m (Y4.8bn)

7. Partners: The Movie (Toei) -$49.31m (Y4.44bn)

8. I Am Legend (WB) -$47.87m (Y4.31bn)

9. 20th Century Boys (Toho) -$43.87m (Y3.95bn)

10. The Magic Hour (Toho) -$43.54m (Y3.92bn)

Japan Top Ten Domestic Films 2008:

Title (Distrib) Gross

1. Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea (Toho) -$172.15 (Y15.5bn)

2. Boys Over Flowers: Final (Toho) -$86.07m (Y7.75bn)

3. Suspect X (Toho)- $54.64m (Y4.92bn)

4. Pokemon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior (Toho) - $53.31m (Y4.8bn)

5. Partners: The Movie (Toei) -$49.31m (Y4.44bn)

6. 20th Century Boys (Toho) -$43.87m (Y3.95bn)

7. The Magic Hour (Toho) - $43.54m (Y3.92bn)

8. Doraeomon: Nobita And The Green Giant Legend (Toho) - $37.43m (Y3.37bn)

9. A Tale Of Mari And Three Puppies* (Toho) - $35.32m (Y3.18bn)

10. L: Change The World (WB) - $34.43m (Y3.1bn)

[11. Departures (Shochiku) -$33.87m (Y3.05bn)]

* Late 2007 release

1 USD = 90.0398 JPY

Sources: Eiren 2008 data