Warner Bros Japan is to receive the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Award for best foreign film distributor of the year for its box office achievements in 2003.

William Ireton, managing director for Warner Bros Japan, will accept the award at a ceremony today (Apr 16) at the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The award follows top distributor honours from Japan's Motion Picture Exhibitors Association for an exceptional year in which The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (combined Y17.65bn or $152.7m gross) and The Last Samurai (more than Y13bn or $120m alone) together accounted for more than 22 million admissions.

The success of Hero (for which Warner Bros Pictures International held Japanese rights) and Mystic River will also receive a special mention.

"Our market-specific strategies carefully tailor each campaign in Japan," Sue Kroll, president of marketing at Warner Bros Pictures International (WBPI), said in a statement. "With efforts ranging from specialised creative materials to unique publicity events, we present the films in a sensitive and culturally appropriate manner.

"Japan is the biggest market outside of the US," Veronika Kwan-Rubinek, president of distribution at WBPI, said. "With box office success that outdoes itself each year, including a take for The Last Samurai that surpassed the US, the Japanese market is the primary business focus for the studio not only on an international, but global, level."

This is the third consecutive year Warner Bros Japan has been the top distributor and the third time it has been honoured with theMinister's Award after 1999 and 2001.

The company enjoyed a near 30% share of the market for imported films and grossed Y35bn or $320m in 2003.