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Crowdfunding for Japan's small independent movie theaters a huge hit

The logo for the "Mini-Theater AID" campaign is seen in this provided image.

TOKYO -- A crowdfunding campaign fronted by two Japanese film directors to raise money for 78 small independent Japanese movie theaters across the country feeling the financial effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic has raised 56 million yen (about $521,000) just a day after opening for donations.

The "Mini-Theater AID" campaign was started by directors Koji Fukada, whose film "Harmonium" was a prize winner at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, and "Asako I & II" director Ryusuke Hamaguchi. They began the fundraiser, which is set to continue until May 14, with an aim to collect 100 million yen to be shared equally among the recipients. Already over 50% of that target has been achieved.

In the 24-hour-period after opening for contributions from 1 p.m. on April 13, 4,819 people had made donations to the fund. Supporters can choose between 17 tiers from which to give their money, which range from the lowest support level, which gets them a PDF thanking them in return, or various "future ticket" courses with rewards attached. Payment options are 3,000 yen at their lowest and 5 million yen at their highest.

In the case of the options with prizes, return items included tickets to go and see movies and the chance to watch works for a year by filmmakers who are endorsing the fundraiser via an internet streaming service called "Thanks Theater." Depending on the amount they have pledged, the number of movies contributors could see changes.

Among the works brought together and drawing interest to the "Thanks Theater" service are an unreleased documentary of director Sunao Katabuchi's anime film "In This Corner of the World," a drama set in the years before and after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and "Bangkok Nites," a cult film directed by Katsuya Tomita of the moviemaking collective Kuzoku. The project has never been released for home viewing before.

Asked why the Mini-Theater AID campaign has had such an effect so quickly, its head of promotion, Rui Sasaki, said, "It depends largely on directors calling straight to movie fans for support." Sasaki added, "At the press conference (for the campaign) held on April 13, Rysukue Hamaguchi left a strong impression when he said, 'This fundraiser is calling for action to protect the livelihoods of people involved in movies.' I hope many people will be able to help us protect the lives of people in the movie business."

A link to the campaign's page can be accessed from (in Japanese).

(Japanese original by Sahoko Nishida, Web Operation Center)

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