Japan Cinema presents well….the Top 10 Japanese Cinemas. The cinema landscape of Japan ain’t what it used to be. As in much of the world, small independent movie houses struggle against an environment of new and bigger state-of-the-art multiplexes. But in this ever-morphing metropolis, there are still some funky holdouts from a more golden age of movie consumption — brave institutions that still believe in the traditional culture of cinema. Follow me as I take you on the tour of the top cinemas in Japan, through the arthouses up through the biggest complexes:
Don’t expect major releases here – Cinema Artone is a try-out spot for the local independent talent making their first cinematic excursions, as well as a first-run stop-off point for films primarily intended for video. Another snug little 50-seater indie theatre tucked away in one of the coolest parts of town, the venue that used to be known as the Cinema Shimokitazawa is pretty difficult to miss from the outside. Oh, and there’s also rather a nice café in the building. Tokyo’s hotspot for fine cinema viewing!
A mix of American indies and foreign films are shown here. Film-goers are summoned in numbered batches, according to when they bought their tickets, so there’s never any stampede for seats. Ebisu Garden Cinema consists of two small theaters; the larger theater seats 232 and the smaller one 116.
Shinjuku Piccadilly is the newest movie theater in Shinjuku. The theater features stadium seating and “platinum” seating. Platinum seating ranges from a semi-private room, including a private lounge (¥5000 per person) to a private room, including a relaxation room (¥30,000 for 2 people).
As well as screening films from across the world, in former days the venue served as a training ground and hangout for future filmmakers such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and Ryuichi Hiroki, before its programmer Masamichi Matsumoto joined forces with Eurospace’s Kenzo Horikoshi to form The Film School of Tokyo. Nowadays, it still accommodates an impressively eclectic film program on its single screen on the top floor.
The Shinjuku Koma Theater was a major theatre in the Kabukichō, Shinjuku, Tokyo. The theatre opened in 1956 and it had a capacity of 2,088 seats. It became a home to kabuki and enka performances. The theater welcomed 1 million visitors annually during its heyday. Over the summer, film giant Toho made the company Koma Stadium, which owns the theater, a wholly owned subsidiary. In the basement of the Koma building is a Toho film theater that will also close in the coming weeks.
Not too much info is given on this particular cinema but it is ranked high because most movie afterparties are thrown here and many directors of big budgeted films go here to throw down on drinks and celebrate with their cast and crews. Only a suitable setting would do the trick for occasions such as those so this cinema gets special mention.
All the latest hits appear at this ten-screen giant. Premium screens have wide, high-backed seats (¥2,500), and parents can leave kids in the hotel’s day nursery (9am-6pm; call ahead to get a place). This cinema is famous for its enormous leg room. Well worth the $25 to see the latest James Bond.
The Marunouchi Louvre is another theater in the cluster of cinema centered around the Mullion and Shin-Mullion buildings. It seats 516 and shows mostly American road shows. Apart from the usual candies and soft drinks, it sells sandwiches, hot dogs and beer at the kiosk in the foyer. On Saturdays it either has a late show or runs all night.
Virgin’s nine-screen multiplex has the biggest screen in Japan, as well as luxurious reclining seats and Internet booking up to two days in advance for reserved seats. This state-of-the-art theatre also holds all-night screenings on nights before holidays. They are also one of the first cinemas to offer late night shows.
Ah, the new Jimbocho Theater, in the heart of Tokyo’s booksellers district, screen well-curated series devoted to particular actors, directors and genres. For the nerd, scholar or general film lover, the depth and breadth of these programs can be overwhelming. It knabs the number one spot because being the new kid on the block, it features the latest in state of the art technology and sound.
There you have it! If anyone finds themselves wanted to see a movie in the land of the rising sun, you have a pretty good pick of the litter that are spread out all around Japan. If you have been to any of these or have any opinions, feel free to sound off or share your experience with us. Until next time…