The Japanese Cinema Experience

When it comes to seeing a movie in cinemas, you probably don’t think the experience differs much from country to country. However, seeing a movie in Japan is a bit different than seeing a movie in the US, for example—and we don’t just mean that there are a lot more foreign (foreign, in this case, being American) movies showing in mainstream theaters dubbed or subtitled.

Although seeing a film in cinemas in the US can be fairly pricey, particularly if you’re in a metropolitan area and you’re opting for an evening show, seeing a film in cinemas in Japan is almost universally pricey to the point where it’s only an occasional treat for most people. (Think of how often you might go see a play, an opera, or a live sports game.) The average movie ticket price in Japan is somewhere between ¥1700 and ¥1800 (approximately US$19 to $20)!

While there are discounts, there are usually no matinee shows. However, there may be a discount for late-night shows, like those after 9:00 p.m., which cost an average of only ¥1200 to ¥1300 (approximately US$13 to $14). Those who are hoping to see a movie for a price closer to the price in the States may want to stop by on the first of the month for Movie Day or on Wednesdays for Ladies’ Day (if you’re a lady, of course!). Prices on these special days drop down to about  ¥900 to ¥1000 (approximately US$10 to $11)—but on Wednesdays, the discount is only for women. You can also save about ¥200 to ¥300 (approximately US$2 to $3) by purchasing your tickets ahead of time from a ticket broker, which is a wide-spread practice, much like people buying tickets for plays, operas, and sports events often purchase tickets ahead of time.

Instead of having generic paper tickets printed out, Japanese moviegoers get souvenir-quality tickets with artwork from the movie printed on it. They’re also assigned a seat, which is printed on the ticket (like in a play theater), so that once you have a ticket, there’s no reason to get there extremely early to get a good seat. They can also get a playbill-like souvenir booklet with behind-the-scenes information about the movie to commemorate the occasion.

Japanese cinemas are generally smaller than their American counterparts with seats that are not as comfortable. Rather than stadium-style seating, the seats are staggered on a downwards-sloped hill. However, at some Japanese cinemas, you may find a small portion at the top devoted to comfortable lounge-like seating with tables—moviegoers who get tickets for seats here are served drinks before the movie!

There’s one more point you should know before going to a Japanese cinema and that’s to stay in your seat all the way through! Of course, there are exceptions for emergencies, but moviegoers rarely get up during the performance to use the restroom or get more food (like theater-goers here rarely get up to avoid disturbing a play). Japanese moviegoers also wait for the credits to finish rolling before they leave.

If you lived in Japan, do you think you would see a movie in cinemas as often as you do now? Do you like the idea of assigned seating in a cinema? Could you make it through an entire movie without getting up?

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Tags: cinema, japan, japanese culture, japanese entertainment, movie theater, movies