Toho, one of Japan's oldest studios and its biggest distributor, hasannounced that box office earnings for 2006 have broken an all-time record forthe company.

Grosses from January untilthe end of November totaled $476.24m (Y55.95bn), with end of year estimates at$502.69m (Y59bn). This beats the previous record of $467.09m (Y54.85bn) set in2001 when all-time box office champion SpiritedAway was released. It's also the third consecutive year for Toho to passthe Y50bn mark.

In one of the mostsuccessful years ever for local product in Japan, big hits for the distributorhave included Studio Ghibli's Tales FromEarthsea ($65.4m), Fuji TV's Umizaru2: Test Of Trust ($61m) and Suite Dreams($52.5m), and TBS' Sinking Of Japan($45.47m).

The studio has released 15films that have earned more than Y1bn ($8.6m), the standard indicator of a boxoffice success, compared to 18 last year. However, the studio has releasedeight megahits that grossed over $25m, also beating previous records.

Toho also announced its 2007slate. Distributed titles will include two feature adaptations of popular FujiTV series - Saiyuki, which is basedon the Journey to the West legend andstars SMAP member Shingo Katori, and HERO,which will star SMAP member Takuya Kimura (LoveAnd Honor) as an unorthodox prosecutor.

Toho in-house productionswill continue to focus on romance and women's stories, including adaptations ofbest-selling novels Ai No Ryukeichi,starring Etushi Toyokawa (Sinking OfJapan) and Shinobu Terashima (Yamato),and Tengoku De Kimi Ni Aetara,starring Misaki Ito (Ju-on).

Other major releases includeTBS-produced period action drama Dororo;a remake of Akira Kurosawa's Sanjurostarring Yuji Oda (Bayside Shakedown);a sequel to Japanese Academy Award winner Always- Sunset on Third Street; and new entries in the Pokemon, Doraemon and Crayon Shinchan franchises.