Why Does Japan Get Movies So Late?!?

By Donnie | Articles

Hey everybody, I’m SO excited today because I’m headed to the movies to check out one of the new releases from home. What movie is it…drumroll please…tatatata tatatata tatatata tatatata (that’s the sound of the drums) CAPTAIN AMERICA!! Huh? When did it come out in America? In July?!? Jesus Herman Christ*. It still behooves me that in the year 2011, Japan has to wait for so long to get movies that were released 3-4 months prior at the U.S. box office. Captain America was released on July 22nd (my birthday) in the U.S., and on October 20th (my Dad’s birthday, oddly enough…HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!) here in Japan
*For those who didn’t know, yes, Christ’s middle name was Herman.

I’m entirely sure that this phenomenon isn’t related to anything more than the return on investment for producers and studios. If a movie is released in the U.S. and it sucks locally, I think the delayed releases give the producers and movie studios a chance to recoup some of their losses. Or if the movie is really good, once its U.S. furor has died down, repeating the process in countries all over the world is a chance to make even more.

Of course there are exceptions where a movie will have a worldwide release. I think movies that have a tremendously large following worldwide fall into that category. For example, I would think movies like Star Wars, Batman, or Lord of the Rings would fall into this category, but I never can tell for sure. Now that I think about it though, was The Dark Knight released on the same date worldwide? Arrgh! I can’t remember.

Because these movies end up being released so late, it drives many English-speaking foreigners, living in Japan straight to the internet to find places to watch the movies they want to see. Sometimes, it’s a hard call. You want to see some things in the theater, but sometimes you don’t know if the movie is going to come out here or not. Or, by the time it does, the movie’s already lost its luster.

Anyway, how was the Captain America movie? Umm, it was decent. I’d give it a 6.5-7.0 on the ten scale. I’m not the biggest Captain America fan, but I thought it was a good movie translation. I can’t explain it, but it just felt like something was lacking. There was some x factor (no pun intended) that didn’t give the movie that kick that I wanted; but not a bad film. Next year, the superhero movies that I want to see are “The Dark Knight Rises” (I’m really looking forward to seeing how they end this trilogy) and the Avengers. I don’t know if Japan will get these movies late, too, but I hope they end up being worldwide releases.


Donald Ash

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  • Joshua Shibata says:

    Hey Donald, whats up!? Yea Cap was an OK movie…Ive spoken to some of my other comic geek friends and I think what we narrowed it down to is that the movie lacked the cliche (but very necessary) transition period where the hero learns to BECOME a hero. You had Peter Parker, a geeky weakling, find out he has the abilities of a spider and slowly through experimentation, learns what he can and cant do (the scene in the Spider Man movie specifically is him learning he can climb walls and trying to figure the right “pose” to do his webbing). There was none of that in the Cap movie. One moment he’s weakling Steve Rogers…the next he’s Cap and immediatly he knows what he can do. How does a guy who use to be a 95 lb soaking wet wuss, suddenly adapt to being a hulking 200lb solid mass of muscle? I think this lack of learning and wonderment kinda took the charm and that “X” element out of the movie. Still I thought it was a very decent movie (definitly no Ghost Rider lol) so I didnt mind. Have you seen the trailers for Avengers? It looks SICK!!!! Anyway great post, keep up the good work!

    • Donald Ash says:

      I really didn’t think about that, but I guess you’re right. I did kinda just come out the gate knowing what to do. The other X element might be that Captain America doesn’t necessarily have the coolest powers (sorry Cap fans), but he’s a soldier who’s kinda strong by superhero standards. I guess Ironman doesn’t really have powers, but that suit is about as cool as it gets. The Hulk has the whole anger, green skin and incredible strength going for him. I’m sure Cap’n America is pretty happy that Hawkeye is own the team. He can sleep at night like “Whew, at least I’m not that guy” LOL. The Avengers trailers do look really good. Japan will probably get it in 2015, ha, ha. I’m looking forward to The Dark Knight Rises, too.

      Thanks for the feedback, Josh, and thanks even more for stopping by to post.

  • Peter says:

    I heard that the reason it takes so long for movies to come to Japan is that there are is a very small number of people that do all the subtitles for foreign movies here, so it all depends on their availability. I’m not sure if this is actually true or not, but it seems more plausible than the “see how it does in the US first” theory; lots of US movies have release dates in foreign countries other than Japan much closer to the US release date. I seem to recall the last Bond movie being released throughout South America and Africa before it made it to Japan!!

  • And Now the Same Thing with The Avengers says:

    Avengers premiered April 11, 2012 in L.A., and it’s opening in the U.S. and internationally throughout April and May. Will I get to see it with my girl in Japan, who loves these movies, when I visit her in June? NO!! Because there is one exception, just one country that is not getting a release until THREE months after everybody else… you guessed it, Jaaaaaapaaaaaannnnn. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, all have April or May release dates, along with every other country listed (Lithuania, Colombia, Pakistan, etc)…except one. There are no release dates in June or July, then Japan comes lagging across the finish line in the middle of sticky, steamy August. Sure, the cinema may be a place to keep cool, but rainy season is just as good for a movie night, and without competing fireworks.

    It seems they’re not even bothering with releases in Korea or China, because of piracy? If you’ve ever been in a video store in Mainland China, oh the laughs! Maybe Japan is seen as a likely source for such piracy, hence the delayed release? Then what about other neighboring countries? Why, I echo the O.P., WHY???

    By the way,regarding a limited number of subtitle-translators, it certainly seems that whoever is doing them is at least sometimes doing a rushed job. ; )

  • Redpath says:

    Speaking of movies that came out terribly late in Japan. My boyfriend (who is Japanese and actually watches television) saw a CM for the Hunger Games back in November and told me that ‘Hey did you know that America is making their own little Battle Royale movie’ The movie release date came and went in America…way back in March. In Japan…Well it is May now. Annnnnd there is not even a poster for it at the cinema.

    And in response to a previous comment…
    The subtitling thing. It is untrue. They have hoards of translators all over Japan. Magazines. Mangas. Books. Websites. Television Shows. I am personally friends with no less than 6 people of this profession and I living in the suburbs.
    Also you can find leaked translated versions online or the soft subtitles versions (which can often be better than movie subs) well before the movies are released in Japan. I mean consider all of the Mandarin speaking countries. Hell consider Singapore, and English speaking country on the very same list. And please try to entertain me with the same amusement that there is no one to translate the movie. And yet Korea does? (They get their release dates pretty close to the American ones. Harry Potter was released on the same day there)

    • Donald Ash says:

      Thanks for posting, Redpath. You’re right! I haven’t seen anything for the Hunger Games, either. That movie did quite well at the US Box Office, too. That’s so confusing/semi-frustrating; if Korea is getting the movies, Japan should be too. The countries are so close to each other. Maybe someday…sigh.

  • Esposito says:

    The late movie releases in Japan are indeed frustrating. Prometheus comes out in June back home, but we have to wait until August to see it here. It seems Japan is the last place on Earth to get Hollywood films. I think a big part of it is about protecting and promoting the Japanese film industry. It seems that at any given time less than 25% of films showing at the theater are not Japanese. This is likely due to some kind of legislation that keeps the cinemas here from being swamped with foreign films. There’s also the cost of the prints, which may be much higher in Japan for imported films so theaters wait until the price drops, like when it’s no longer showing in N.America.

  • Marisa D. says:

    At least we get to see The Amazing Spiderman before most other countries!

  • Found this really interesting. Was surprised at the early release of Avengers here in the UK. Always amazed my that studios are intent on fighting piracy but don’t have same day international release on every movie. I admit to downloading a couple of films rather than waiting a month and basically having to avoid the spoiler filled internet.

  • Kitsune-kun says:

    Luckily, TDKR will only come out here 8 days later than in the US.

  • Mike Miro says:

    why do studios release movies here? 2 reasons: first of all, Japanese film distributors have final say over what is put out in Japan & when. We often don’t get top comedy releases here – except for the straight to DVD versions – mainly due to the difficulty in translating humor. For action/adventure films, however, it has more to do with perceived interest in the American Superhero genre among Japanese fans. Ironman was released in May 2008 worldwide but in September in Japan. While franchises such as Batman & Spiderman are released quickly due to their popularity, Superheroes that are not well-known get put back. Hence Cptn America, & Avengers are not considered A-list superheroes in Japan.
    The second reason is apathy. Japanese people don’t voice their opinions or vocalize their complaints at all, thus distributors don’t bother trying to speed things up.

  • Sebastien Dubois says:

    Whenever Japan starts making films that audiences await with baited anticipation; then they will be more on an even keel with the western populous I guess

  • Musouka says:

    I suspect that’s because the Japanese love to dub every movie (plus other marketing considerations). The latest scapegoat is the 2nd Hobbit movie. Japan will be the last country to get the movie on 28 February 2014.


    • Donald Ash says:

      The last country? Ouch 🙁 Sigh…I wish it didn’t have to be like that, Musouka. Yeah, I think it’s part marketing, part politics, and for some movies (i.e.- many comedies) it’s how well received it would be by a Japanese audience.

  • Mcstack says:

    The delayed release of movies in Japan has to do with movie competition – in the case of Hobbit 2, I am guessing that they are trying to avoid 47 Ronin, with a Dec. 25th release date, getting crushed by the Hobbit 2 or the possibility of the 47 Ronin cutting into the Hobbit 2’s sales. 47 Ronin is stacked with a Japanese cast and will likely make it’s money, if anywhere, in Japan. Therefore, they are likely deciding to limit the competition for that movie – otherwise, it will likely flop,

  • Bryan Jeon says:

    nope when I lived in Japan, I had to wait 2-3 months to watch the last Lord of the Rings movie.

  • mikedo2007 says:

    Donald, Hi I stumbled upon your blog.

    I don’t know hold old this entry is but a lot of thing has been changing. Japan has been getting Hollywood films way late then any other Asian countries (except Mainland China). I mean you’re not the only one complaining:



    Japan is the 3rd largest movie market, and yet Hollywood films have to come out last out of all the Asian countries (again, China is an exception). I don’t have full explanation why Hollywood films are coming out last but I think these 2 articles may help:



    It’s not getting any better, Star Wars is a big mainstream pop culture and yet Episode 8 will come out in Japan a month later after it’s US and global theatrical release:


    I was told Hollywood films are not as popular in Japan as it was like 7-10 years ago. Because of this and Mainland China’s censorship approval for foreign films, I guess that’s why South Korea has become a big testing ground for Hollywood’s Asian premiere (that may explain why South Korea is getting Hollywood films first before Mainland China and Japan get it last):





    In the past, when Hollywood used to have Asian premiere it used to be in Hong Kong (I think back in the 80’s and early 90’s), then Japan (when Japanese movie market was easier back then), then Mainland China (when the Chinese government limit on foreign films wasn’t difficult back then), and now South Korea is becoming the Asian country for Hollywood film Asian premiere. I hope this help.

  • happy fathers day says:

    Nice information
    Film Dhamaka

  • Mike says:

    I don’t think dubbing and localization is an issue. Take animated festures. These are dubbed and localized in almost every country. And then look at the release dates of Frozen or Moana world wide. Poland does quite a big localization of Disney movies – release date the same as in the US. France localizes even more – usually a week later. Japan – 3/4 months later. You don’t need this time to localize humor. It’s the local distributors idea. The same (less extreme) happens in Europe. Some countries usually get the same opening weekend as the US (Spain, Poland, Serbia etc), some are a week off (France and often for some reason – the UK), some are off up to a month (Germany, Greece) and some have weird Japanese style dates often – like Italy and parts of Scandinavia. The funny thing is that rich western countries get the pushed back dates in general, while Eastern European ones with smaller teams working on localization usually have normal dates… weird stuff

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