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Japan's Earthquake Aftermath Hits Markets, Impacts Hollywood Releases, Disney Pledges Aid (UPDATE)

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood March 15, 2011 at 8:29AM

[Image: Courtesy of CNN: A statue stands among debris in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, on Monday]
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[Image: Courtesy of CNN: A statue stands among debris in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, on Monday]

The world watches in horror at the devastating aftermath of last week's 9.0 earthquake on Japan, including a possible nuclear catastrophe. This terrible threat brings back memories of both Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the U.S. nuclear disaster that followed the oddly similar 1979 Hollywood movie The China Syndrome, which terrified people with the concept of a nuclear "meltdown," a phrase the Japanese are now trying to downplay, reports USA Today.

Several ripples from the Japan tragedy have reached the entertainment industry. For one thing, the networked worldwide economy and financial markets are getting hit as "investors around the world made a dash for safety on Tuesday, fearing the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe in Japan," reported the NYT, quoting a Singapore-based capital management firm's global strategist: “Today is a panic day. The question is, Where is the bottom?”

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For the entertainment industry, scheduled releases are being reconsidered for sensitivity and appropriateness. Warner Entertainment Japan has pulled Clint Eastwood's Hereafter (pictured), which earned an Oscar nomination for its vivid recreation of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hitting Thailand, from theaters in Japan. Warner's Satoru Otani said the film was "not appropriate" to be shown given the present circumstances. UPDATE: Warner Bros. has announced that proceeds from Hereafter's DVD and Blu-ray sales would go to the Japanese Red Cross Society's relief efforts, allegedly in the $1 million range. Eastwood has released a statement saying “The devastation and loss Japan is facing is almost incomprehensible. I’m glad to join Warner Bros. in this effort to help the Japanese people.” See below for more donation updates.

The LAT reports that "Japan generated $2.5 billion in box office receipts last year, $700 million more than the No. 2 foreign movie market, France." Hence studios are reconsidering their release schedules for Japan's significant audience. Warner Bros. has pulled Anthony Hopkin's The Rite (it was meant to open Friday), Sony's Battle: Los Angeles was set to open April 1, but that will likely be pulled altogether, given its upsetting premise. Approximately 110 of 680 theaters in Japan have been shut down, and last weekend's box office was down 52% from the weekend prior (Disney's Tangled, the only American film to open in Japan last weekend, brought in a meager $1.75 million). UPDATE: Disney has close two theme parks in Tokyo, "Our top priority is the well-being of our employees and their families during this challenging time and we will continue to closely monitor the situation as it develops," they said in a statement.

The NYT reprints an interview with the late great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, who remembers the aftermath of 1923's Great Kanto earthquake, which occurred during his childhood. He had commented on the destruction in interviews and in his autobiography, but never used such imagery in his films. In a 1993 interview he said:

“My brother once forced me to spend a day wandering through Tokyo looking at the victims of the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923…Corpses piled on bridges, corpses blocking off a whole street at the intersection, corpses displaying every manner of death possible to human beings. When I involuntarily looked away, my brother scolded me, 'Akira, look carefully now.' When that night I asked my brother why he made me look at those terrible sights, he replied: 'If you shut your eyes to a frightening sight, you end up being frightened. If you look at everything straight on, there is nothing to be afraid of.' With my camera, like Dostoyevsky with his prose, I have tried to force the audience — which is often unwilling — to look carefully now."
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[Image: Courtesy of CNN: Five-year-old Neena Sasaki carries family belongings from her destroyed home in Rikuzentakata in Miyagi Prefecture on Tuesday, March 15]

Disney has pledged to donate $2.5 million to the American Red Cross's humanitarian aid efforts for earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan. They will also match their cast and employee donations to Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Fund and Save the Children, up to $1 million. Disney president and CEO Robert A. Iger stated: “Our hearts go out to the people of Japan. We send our continued thoughts of support and encouragement as this great nation begins the long road to recovery.”

ARC's president and CEO Gail McGovern responded: "We are truly grateful for Disney's generosity to help those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Disney's support is enabling the Red Cross to provide critical assistance and essential relief items in this time of urgent need.” You can donate here.

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[Image: Courtesy of Shiho Fukada for The International Herald Tribune: Residents checked for a missing persons on a list of known evacuees at city hall in Kesennuma, Japan]

This article is related to: Box Office, Directors, Hollywood, Studios, Media, Marketing, Clint Eastwood, Warner Bros./New Line, Sony/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Classics, Disney


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