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Toho Cinemas, Japan’s largest cinema chain, is under investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission for possible violations of Japan’s anti-trust law. According to reports in the Japanese media, the company, a subsidiary of local industry giant Toho, has pressured local film companies to allow only Toho Cinemas to screen their films. Refusers, say the reports, are shut out of Toho Cinemas’ 72 theaters with their 677 screens.
On March 4, Toho issued a statement saying it had “received a report from the Japan Fair Trade Commission concerning transactions by our subsidiary with a movie distribution company.” The FTC, the statement continued, “has requested the cooperation in the investigation on a voluntary basis…The company and Toho Cinemas will fully cooperate with the investigation.”
According to Japan’s antitrust law, as admitted by Toho, Toho Cinemas may be in violation of statutes dealing with monopolistic practices and restraint of trade.
Toho is Japan’s biggest industry player. It is involved in production, distribution and, through Toho Cinemas, exhibition, Toho has long accounted for the majority of major box office hits. Last year Toho released or co-released five of the top ten highest-earning films, including number one “Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time,” a sci-fi anime film that made $92 million following its March 8, 2021 local release.