As we discussed in an earlier blog post, Art Theatre Guild (ATG), Japan’s first independent film production company, firmly established the foundation of production and distribution of non-commercial, art house films. Movie theaters that distributed independent films appeared in the Japanese film industry between the 1980’s and the 1990’s.
In the post-war period, people’s cultural tastes dramatically diversified. People began to crave something more subtle than just popular mainstream Western films. Those blockbuster films pervasive in the market and large movie theaters for the purpose of attracting large audiences were over-supplied, and new demands for film distribution methods and unique film line-ups were generated. Thus, the number of mini theaters increased dramatically in the 1980’s, in response to the demand.
Films with highly artistic aspects generally appeal only to a small audience, and thus they are not box-office successes. Acknowledging this limitation and possessing new perspectives for future films, a film distribution project called, Equipe de Cinema (lit. fellows/party/team of cinema) was launched in 1974 as a movie theater at Iwanami Hall, which used to be a multipurpose hall (built by Iwanami Shoten Publishers, one of the biggest publishing companies in Japan); they became pioneers of minor film distribution and mini theaters in Japan. The project was headed by Etsuko Tanakno, general manager of Iwanami Hall, and Kashiko Kawakita, film curator, popularly known as “Madame Kawakita” among the overseas film industry, who formed the cornerstone of Art Theatre Guild.
– Our primary mission is to uncover hidden masterpieces and show them to the public, and to put a spotlight on film countries, and specifically new and powerful directors from the third world. (1974, Equipe de Cinema No. 2)