TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Japanese movie theaters rang up record ticket sales in 2010, powered by Hollywood 3D blockbusters such as "Avatar" and strong performances by local franchise films, industry data showed on Thursday.
But despite the Hollywood-driven 3D boom, imported films lagged Japanese fare in overall market share for the third straight year, the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan data also showed.
The Japanese box office rose 7.1 percent in 2010 to a record 220.7 billion yen ($2.7 billion), topping the previous peak set in 2004, the association said.
Box office figures were inflated by the premiums charged for 3D viewing, which generally tack on about 300 yen per ticket, but the number of admissions also rose 3 percent.
By contrast, the North American box office was mostly steady from the previous year at about $10.6 billion in 2010 but attendance fell 5.2 percent, according to Hollywood.com Box Office.
Twentieth Century Fox's sci-fi juggernaut "Avatar" was the year's top grossing film with 15.6 billion yen ($190 million). Fellow 3D titles "Alice in Wonderland" and "Toy Story 3," both distributed by Walt Disney Co, also smashed the 10 billion yen mega-hit mark. That is a level no film had managed to crack the previous year.
The top Japanese film and no. 4 overall was the animated film "The Borrowers," based on a children's fantasy novel by British author Mary Norton. The latest offering from cartoon maestro Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, and which was distributed by Toho, raked in 9.25 billion yen.
Close behind were 3D rescue diver flick "Umizaru 3: The Last Message" (8 billion yen) and cop action thriller "Bayside Shakedown 3" (7.3 billion yen). Both films were also distributed by Toho.
Such homegrown series have in recent years helped local films outsell once-dominant Hollywood movies, as audiences shun U.S. superhero and other franchises that carry lower name recognition in Japan.
Imported films accounted for about 46 percent of last year's box office receipts, lagging Japanese fare for a third consecutive year and far off a peak of 73 percent marked in 2002, the data showed.
But audiences still went for "Resident Evil: Afterlife," the fourth outing in a zombie franchise based on a videogame series by Japan's Capcom, due to familiarity with the game.
The Sony Pictures Entertainment release scared up 4.7 billion yen ($57 million), nearly equaling its North American haul of $60 million and making Japan "Afterlife's" top international market.
Twentieth Century Fox is a division of News Corp and Sony Pictures Entertainment is a unit of Sony Corp.
Reporting by Chris Gallagher