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

William Ireton, managing director for Warner Bros Japan,will accept the award at a ceremony on Apr 16 at the Tokyo Chamber of Commerceand Industry.

The award follows top distributor honours from Japan'sMotion Picture Exhibitors Association for an exceptional year in which TheMatrix Reloaded and The MatrixRevolutions (combined $152.7m gross) and TheLast Samurai (more than $120m alone)together accounted for more than 22million admissions.

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

'Our market-specific strategies carefully tailor eachcampaign in Japan,' Sue Kroll, president of marketing at Warner BrosPictures International (WBPI), said in a statement. 'With efforts rangingfrom specialised creative materials to unique publicity events, we present thefilms 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 boxoffice success that outdoes itself each year, including a take for The LastSamurai that surpassed the US, the Japanesemarket is the primary business focus for the studio not only on aninternational, but global, level.'

This is the third consecutive year Warner Bros Japan hasbeen 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 forimported films and grossed $320m in 2003.