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It's 'Ben Hur' and 'Wizard of Oz' as some Japanese cinemas reopen

31 Comments
By Chris Gallagher

The chariots of 1959 epic "Ben Hur" and the yellow brick road of 1939 fantasy "The Wizard of Oz" are back on the big screen in Japan as cinemas begin reopening from the coronavirus crisis with a slate heavy on Hollywood classics.

James Dean starrer "East of Eden" (1955), crime drama "Bonnie and Clyde" (1969) and disaster film "The Towering Inferno" (1974) are among other titles playing, after Japanese chain Toho Cinemas reopened 10 of its 66 theaters in areas deemed relatively safe from the coronavirus.

The unit of Toho Co, which also runs a film studio, said it would reopen 23 more cinemas on Friday in prefectures where the government has lifted the state of emergency.

Cinemas in Tokyo remain shut.

Toho Cinemas, which had closed all of its theaters as of April 18, has implemented safety measures including keeping every other seat empty and making staff and customers wear masks.

Reopening theaters leads to another challenge, however: what films to show after movie studios delayed new releases because of the pandemic?

Toho's reopened theaters mostly offer a mix of old Hollywood, recent Japanese hits and holdovers like Oscar-winning"Parasite" that were in cinemas before the closures, although that mix varied between theaters, its website showed.

Its Sendai cinema in Miyagi Prefecture on Tuesday was screening the American classics mentioned as well as neo-noir sci-fi classic "Blade Runner" (1982), prison drama "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994) and several Japanese films including "Shin Godzilla" (2016).

Its Sun Street Hamakita theater in Shizuoka skewed more toward local films headlined by multiple screenings of Makoto Shinkai's animation megahit "Your Name" (2016) and his follow-up "Weathering With You" (2019).

But Sun Street Hamakita was also showing Steven Spielberg's sci-fi classic "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" (1982), romantic drama "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982) and the musical "West Side Story" (1961).

Western "Rio Bravo" (1959), starring John Wayne, was also playing in some theaters.

Asked about the selection of films on show, the Toho official simply said: "We're playing films that are popular."

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

31 Comments
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Yeeeeahhh, I guess we really must be the oldest nation on earth.

Ben Hur? Wizard of Oz?

Thats some past level ssssssstuff

-12 ( +1 / -13 )

Ben Hur and the Wizard of Oz? If you haven't seen them on the big screen you haven't seen them. Go for it!

21 ( +21 / -0 )

Who wants to go SIT DOWN in a movie theatre when we have been in lockdown for about two months?!

-14 ( +3 / -17 )

I’d love to see some of these classic films on a big screen, as they were meant to be seen.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

I’d love to see some of these classic films on a big screen

When you think about it, all screens end up being the same size to your eyes and brain. If you watch on your phone, your eyes are up close, on the computer, a little further back, on the TV, much further back. When it comes to the cinema you are sitting way way back from the screen. It makes no difference to your brain how big the screen is, so long as you sit the right distance from it.

-13 ( +0 / -13 )

Love seeing the old classics on the big screen.

2001 was a particular treat. I'd seen it many times before but this was a first - the cinema even had an interval!

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Ben Hur? Wizard of Oz? 

Thats some past level ssssssstuff

Still good.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Too old, Why not latest Asian movies or movies more in tune with times ???.

-13 ( +0 / -13 )

I wish they'd always show some classics! These are fantastic movies and I'm itching to go and see these

but won't, not until we're in safe waters reg. corona. Majority of new movies are awful, and there are only a few gems every now and then. Last year the gem was Joker.
5 ( +5 / -0 )

I wish they'd always show some classics! These are fantastic movies and I'm itching to go and see these

but won't, no

My local multiplex shows classic movies, usually Hollywood ones, every week, I believe on Wednesdays.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Ben Hur popular in Japan? Who'd have thought? Fantastic movie.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I’d love to see some of these classic films on a big screen, as they were meant to be seen.

I remember my mum saying a lot of girls went to see Ben Hur to see Charlton Heston in a toga.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Ben Hur popular in Japan? Who'd have thought?

Why not? As you said, fantastic film.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I had no idea that "The Wizard of Oz" is playing at theaters! I'll definitely go to see it because Gokai am a friend of Dorothy. (If you understand what that means).

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Great idea to screen classic films, but I must agree...who the hell would go to a cinema...now!??

1 ( +1 / -0 )

...family being catholic, my dad a fan of Charlton Heston, i watched Ben Hur some 10-15 times ( every year on Christmas / Easter time )... also Stephen Boyd was incredible as Messala, one of the best villains ever... but never watched it on the big screen so that would be really interesting... also Blade Runner, one of my favorites... ... no new stuff coming out now so the people in charge of selecting the films need to know what good cinema is... apparently they do...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

As much as a film buff I believe myself to be, Ben Hur is one I have not seen yet for some reason (at least not in its entirety). Perhaps that'll be my first film to go see, if Osaka realizes the continued shutdown is pointless since everything else has already opened again anyway. And I reckon a theater is FAR safer than most places -- they were nearly empty long before the movies stopped playing, they're not going to be packed now. I have truly been enjoying Toho's 10 a.m. screening of old movies, and the last one I saw before things shut down was Back to the Future Part 1. I think it's wonderful to be replaying these old flicks, and hope they keep doing so even when the the SoE is eventually lifted.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'll definitely go to see it because Gokai am a friend of Dorothy. (If you understand what that means).

Depends. Is it homosexual innuendo or a drugs reference (or both)?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

LudditeToday 05:13 pm JSTI’d love to see some of these classic films on a big screen, as they were meant to be seen.

And even better when they're digitally restored/remade/remodeled. I saw 'Yellow Submarine' at a college party on a VCR but I saw it again redone in a cinema on the big screen. And yes, that's the best way to see it. Just like the other great classics. Stereo sound all around and all that jazz.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Everyone has something we don't want to give up.

For me its going to my regular izakaiya, for others it's going to the movies if everyone cuts back on things they can do without, they should be free to keep having fun doing or going where they love to go.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly would be great"

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Pink Floyd’s The Wall on the big screen is mind blowing. I’d see that again. And for a guy Who don’t like musicals much, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory would be nice.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As much as a film buff I believe myself to be

Calling Back to the future an “old movie”? A film buff you are not. You must have been born in the 90’s.

invalid CSRF

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan is not Japan with out Godzilla! and there are other timeless classics like, Gone with the wind, Dumbo, Junglebook.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Luddite Yeah, very good point. And I’m in my 30s, so the vast majority of those movies I would’ve been too young to see in the theaters anyway. Now I really wish I was able to move to Japan before all this. But oh well, you can only do we can only do it right?

And here’s to a lot of those movies still being in some theaters at least in Japan, so I can go see them when I am able to move.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

no new stuff coming out now so the people in charge of selecting the films need to know what good cinema is... apparently they do...

Yeah, very good point yourself @rcch . You know, it’s amazing that when you do see the old movies after a while, just how good they really are. I mean whenever I’m with my family, they watch a lot of old movies, I’m just amazed at how good they truly are. And I actually feel a sense of relief watchIng them, but judging by you guys, I’m obviously not alone in feeling that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

who'd pay to see these old films when we can watch them for free?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Godzilla!

Classic Japanese cinema for sure! Blue Oyster Cult has a song about him. 'This next song is about the greatest sci-fy monster in the whole wide world. It's GOD-ZILLLLLKZAAAAH------UUUHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Godzilla, Rodan, all the rest. Bring 'em on!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

who'd pay to see these old films when we can watch them for free?

You must have a massive house. Even the smallest movie theatre screen wouldn't fit in my living room, even if I folded it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

who'd pay to see these old films when we can watch them for free?

It's the communal, celluloid, cinematic experience. Enjoying a shared experience.

Our town hall in London used to show silent films accompanied by someone on the piano.

The seats were cheap, the room was often draughty, but it was magical being transported back to a bygone age.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Probably can't show the current movies since the studios are delaying the release dates - they don't want their movies showing to customer access-restricted half-empty rooms

The old movies nobody cares how many people show up

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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