Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan (SPEJ) has recorded its best year ever in the territory, with current total box office earnings of $140.8m (Y15.5bn) the company announced at its year-end press conference.

While The Da Vinci Code ($82.26m) was Sony's only Top Ten megahit in 2006, the company has released a string of mid-range successes this year, led by top earner Spider-Man 3 ($62.71m), which had its world premiere in Tokyo this April.

Current release Resident Evil: Extinction, which opened in first place on November 3, has grossed approximately $22m thus far. The film also represents SPEJ's increased commitment to digital projection, screening in 2K digital at 22 sites and 4K digital at Tokyo 's Hibiya Scalaza upon its 331-screen release.

Other hits that have earned over $20m for the distributor include December 2006 release Casino Royale ($20.43m) and January release The Pursuit Of Happyness ($24.22m).

Additionally, SPEJ has released 24 films this year, the highest number of titles of the Hollywood majors. Animated penguin comedy Surf's Up opens on December 15.

2008 releases announced at the press conference included summer 2008 superhero titles The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton, and Will Smith starrer Hancock.

SPEJ also distributes non-English language titles such as current release Korean drama Traces Of Love. SPEJ is also increasing its mandate of investing in and releasing homegrown films such as Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django.

Through deeper integration of its film, DVD and TV operations as well as increased advertising tie-ups with other industries, SPEJ aims to earn over Y20bn ($181.9m) in 2009, the company stated.

Sony Pictures ranks second behind Toho, Japan 's largest distributor, whose earnings at the end of October stood at $415.4m (Y45.73bn).