Officials of Japan's Fair Trade Commission have launched an investigation into Twentieth Century Fox (Far East) on suspicion of violating Japan's Antitrust Act.

On January 6 FTC officials visited Fox offices in Tokyo and other locations to gather evidence regarding charges that Fox forced exhibitors to drop discounts on tickets to Stars Wars: Episode 2 and other Fox releases. A Fox spokesman refused to comment on the charges to reporters, saying only that the company is "investigating the situation."

Discounts from the standard adult ticket price of $13.95 (Y1,800) have become increasingly common in the Japanese market in recent years. Multiplex operators, in particular, offer special discounts for morning and late evening shows, as well as to women and other groups.

In addition to Star Wars Episode 2, which grossed $72.5m (Y9.35bn) in Japan, Fox had three films that earned more than 1 billion yen at the Japanese box office in 2002: Ice Age (1.95 billion yen; $15.1 million), Road To Perdition (1.45 billion yen; $11.2 million) and Windtalkers (1.2 billion; $9.3 million).

Among Fox films currently on release in Japan are Minority Report, Unfaithful and One Hour Photo.