When the list of the top tenreleases for the first half of 2006 was widely reported in the Japanese medialast month, it was clear that the trend toward homegrown hits was alive andwell, with seven of the slots occupied by Japanese films.

A barrage of local andHollywood summer movies has altered the box-office landscape somewhat, with thelist now evenly split between overseas and domestic fare, with world dominator The Da Vinci Codeat the top. The combined top ten releases have accounted for $447.5m of thisyear's earnings versus $386.6m in the same period last year (excluding late2004 releases). The final top ten for 2005 grossed $458m, which is set to bebeat, with overall box office takings this year predicted to top 2004's recordhigh of $1.82b (Y210b).

The local industry is also ontrack to grab an even bigger piece of the pie than last year's 41% share (thehighest since 1997) and may seize the majority, which hasn't occurred since1985. With box office earnings of $8.7m (Y1b) considered the mark of a hit inJapan, 19 films have already reached the milestone in the first seven months,compared with 26 overall last year, two of which were late 2005 openers.

This has been buoyed by TVnetworks such as Fuji TV, TBS and NTV continuing to strengthen their featurefilm activities and the movies themselves offering spectacle on a scale equalto Hollywood and stories that appeal to local audiences.

In recent Hollywood releases,Buena Vista International's (BVI) PiratesOf the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest proves thatJohnny Depp is one of the territory's top draws,now totaling $45.4m (Y5.2b) in its third week and set to eclipse the $59.1m earnings of the 2003original. BVI continues to have its best year ever in Japan as the mostsuccessful foreign distributor, already amassing 95% of the record $177.8m itachieved in 2004. However, with earnings of $15m the distributor's Pixar-produced Carshas underperformed compared to other territories,unable to lure audiences away from local anime such as Pokemon and Brave Story.

Tom Cruise also reconfirmedhis popularity with Mission:Impossible3 passing $36m in its fifth week, but it only looks to reach just over half of the second installment's $84.1m (Y9.7b) payday.

Domestically,Studio Ghibli's highly anticipated Tales from Earthseaopened two weeks ago on 435 screens, now standing at $21.7m with strong per-screen averages. Despite lukewarm reviews, distributorToho pegs the film's final tally at $86.8m (Y10b), which would guarantee it theyear's number one or two position and make it the fourth biggest Ghibli release ever. The film has been invited to Venice inthe out of competition category.

TBS' disaster epic Sinking of Japan entered the combinedannual top ten in its fourth week, with the TV network and distributor Toho hoping for a$43m final total.

Major releases yet to openthis summer include Superman Returns,Udon, X-Men: The Last Standand Sugar & Spice.

Top 10 Releases of 2006 (Jan - Aug 6) (does not include end of 2005 releases that earned into 2006)

Rank, Title,Distributor, Box Office Tally

1* The Da Vinci CodeSPE $78.1m (Y9b)

2* Umizaru 2: Test of Trust (Fuji TV) Toho $61.6m(Y7.1b)

3 The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe BVI $59.9m(Y6.9b)

4 Suite Dreams (Fuji TV) Toho $52.9m(Y6.1b)

5* Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest BVI $45.4m(Y5.2b)

6* Mission: Impossible III UIP $34m

7 Doraemon 2006 Toho $30.4m (Y3.5b)

8*Sinking Of Japan (TBS) Toho $27.7m(Y3.2b)

9 Flight Plan BVI $26.9m (Y3.1b)

10 Detective Conan: Requiem Of The Detectives Toho $26m(Y3b)

$1 = Y115.241

* Still intheatrical release