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October 27, 1999
Elizabeth Reigns in Japan
Arthur J Pais
With nearly $ 1 million grossed across Japan in its eighth week, Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth has stubbornly remained among the top five box-office champions in the country since its opening.
With the current momentum, the film could end up with about $ 16 million, nearly two times its gross in England. The Japanese audiences appear to be not getting enough of the sexless film about the virgin queen. Distributors of the film elsewhere, which has grossed about $ 75 million worldwide, are amazed that the Japanese audiences known for their finicky taste, are lapping up the royal melodrama dished out by Kapur.
"The film was released in Japan nearly a year after it ended its run in the United States and Britain because distributors thought the Japanese wouldn't be interested in intrigue and betrayal in English history," says Ric Ornellas. Ornellas is a culture writer and former entertainment industry editor for The Washington Square News.
"But you can't second guess the audiences all the time," Ornellas said. "And Elizabeth is an excellent example."
Many Japanese were interested in finding out how an Asian director who had never made a film outside his home country had managed to direct an quintessentially British film which eventually was nominated for many key Oscars.
Though released several months after Shakespeare in Love, a comedy set in the Elizabethan era which grossed a respectable $18 million, Elizabeth found its own audiences from the first week onwards. For several weeks, it was among the top four films in the country, sliding to the fifth position last week.
Though Shakespeare in Love, which won the best Oscar nod, has grossed $ 250 million worldwide, in Japan, its gross is not going to be far bigger than that of Elizabeth.
"In a way it was smart for its distributors to wait till Shakespeare in Love ceased to be a major conversational topic among moviegoers in Japan," Ornellas says. "Though the two movies are very different in nature, the arrival of Shakespeare in Love certainly ate into Elizabeth's box-office in most countries."
Elizabeth" earned a respectable $ 32 million in the United States while Shakespeare in Love drew in $ 100 million. In France, the audiences revolted against Elizabeth, refusing to pay more than $ two million. The movie fared far better in Italy (about $ four million) and Germany (with over $ 3.2 million).
The bountiful theatrical run also augurs well for the video version of the movie that will hit the shops at the end of the year.
Cate Blanchett, who was nominated for an Oscar in the acting category for the film, has appeared in three films since but has not been able to make an impact.
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