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Programming Pictures: Tele-visuality and Cinema in Pre-Olympics Japan
Friday, 16 Feb 2018
3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
B342 Wells Hall
Asian Studies Center
Event Details:

This lecture will be lead by Dr. Rea Amit. In the second decade after World War II, Japanese cinema was radically transformed, when the major studios began to release two new feature films every week. These films were packaged as the studios' "program picture," and were exhibited in double-bills at theaters owned by or contracted with one of the studios. While only a tiny minority of these films were screened globally, some were highly received at international film festivals. Consequently, to this day, scholars and critics widely conceder this era as the postwar golden age of Japanese cinema. Many have argued that this period of flourishing film culture has ended mainly because of cinema's rivalry with television, which took its place as the most popular medium, in the mid-1960s.   

It is a fact that just before the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, sales of television sets in Japan reached an all-time peak. However, in contrast to the historical narrative described above, this paper argues that throughout the golden age decade, cinema was already television-like and that the two media actually enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. Particularly, the paper showcases ways in which the studios distributed and advertised not films as such, but rather long-running programs. I argue that these efforts, in effect, transformed film theaters into televisual cinema stations that enabled a more fluid flow of media content. Although initiated half-century ago, similar media environment is visible even today, as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympics.