Toei Studios was the undisputed champion of this year's 'Golden Week' box office period in Japan, led by the success of big screen TV adaptation Partners: The Movie (Aibo - Gekijoban).

The police detective thriller, directed by Seiji Izumi, has earned $20.38m (Y2.1bn) since its May 1 release on 300 screens. It earned $2.46m on its opening day alone and $18,700 per screen averages on its first weekend (May 3-4), the highest of the year. It also held onto the top spot this past weekend with earnings of $3.13m.

According to the studio, Partners is on track to become its most successful film this decade, surpassing WWII drama Yamato's $49m total in early 2006. However, it's not certain that Partners will have the staying power of Yamato, which remained in the top ten for 11 weeks. Toei's in-release kids entry Masked Rider: Deno-o & Kiva also contributed with grosses of $6m so far.

The three weekends that encompass the golden week holiday period (April 29, May 3-6), named by Daei Studios in 1951, traditionally boast a mixture of big domestic and foreign releases and higher than average admissions. However, unlike last year's early release of Spider-Man 3 ($68.57m) there were no true tentpole titles this year, with Speed Racer and Iron Man not hitting Japan until July and September.

Toei's success follows one of its worst fiscal years in two decades, and a turning of the tables for Japan's largest distributor-exhibitor Toho. Toho generally rules holiday periods, typically through its own kids' franchises, Fuji TV films or Hollywood studio titles released on the Toho track.

Partners held off newcomer Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess, Toho's reworking of the Akira Kurosawa classic, which managed earnings of $1.73m (Y178m) from 315 screens for third place. The Shinji Higuchi-directed period adventure enjoyed an early international premiere in Los Angeles on April 27.

Surprise second place entry was Warner Brothers' comedy The Bucket List, which earned $1.86m (Y192m) on 223 screens for a per screen average of $8,362. Septuagenarian Nicholson's well-publicised Japan visit before the film's release helped boost admissions at a box office increasingly friendlier to films with older characters (Partners lead Yutaka Mizutani is 55). Warner Bros' 10,000 BC managed to stay in the top ten in ninth position, taking in $8.05m so far.

Toho had four other top ten films in release with Detective Conan: Full Score Of Fear ($19.89m), Shaolin Girl ($11.19m), the latest Crayon Shinchan ($10.54m), and Sand Chronicles ($6.94m). All four saw increased admissions during golden week but Fuji TV's Shaolin Girl and TBS' Sand Chronicles showed middling averages, with the former unlikely to reach the $19.27m (Y2bn) final tally predicted by Toho.

Up and coming distributor Broadmedia Studios release of The Mist opened this weekend in seventh with $725,600. New to the territory this year, Paramount Pictures International's The Spiderwick Chronicles ($5.51m) dropped to tenth, never seeing per screen averages above $3,000 as the period's second widest release. Neither PPI's Cloverfield or Gaga's belated release of Next benefitted much from golden week, both dropping out of the top ten.

On the art house circuit, controversial documentary Yasukuni has enjoyed trouble-free, packed screenings at Shibuya's Cine Amuse, grossing approximately $50,000 from May 3-6. The film is set to open in other major cities in the coming months.