What Are Movie Theaters Like In Japan?

by Jillian Giandurco

What Are Movie Theaters Like In Japan?

If you ever find yourself in a Japanese movie theater, you’re in for a real treat! And if you can’t make it to Japan, this article will dive into what makes Japanese movie theaters such a popular experience so you can live out the experience right from your own home!

Features of Japanese Movie Theaters

Japanese movie theaters are typically located inside of shopping malls, and contain multiple floors with concession stands on each level. These types of theaters are called “cinema complexes,” but there are other kinds of theaters as well – “mini-theaters” are smaller theaters that can hold less than 200 people, and meigaza play classic films only.

 Japanese movie theater seats.

At a cinema complex, you have your choice of seeing a movie in 2D, 3D, 4D, and sometimes even 4DX. As you’d probably expect, most movies in Japan are screened in Japanese, and it can be very difficult to find a screening with subtitles. Moreover, because most children can’t read, children’s movies are almost always dubbed in Japanese, and rarely screen movies with subtitles.

Movie tickets are most commonly purchased at electronic kiosks that let you pick your movie, time, and seats before you pay. Japanese movie theaters offer many themed discount days throughout the month, like Ladies Day, Couples Day, and Movie Day, which often takes place on the first of the month and provides all movie goers with a discounted ticket price. If you choose not to attend a screening on one of these days, prepare to spend around 1,800 yen per ticket (roughly $12.50).

When it comes to your comfort, Japanese movie theaters are very accommodating. If you’re cold, you can pick up a free blanket before you enter the theater, or if your view has been compromised by someone taller than you, you can grab a cushion to give yourself some extra height.

Snacks Offered in Japanese Movie Theaters

When you go to the movies, you’re probably looking for an immersive experience, right? Lucky for you, Japanese theaters do a great job of extending the film outside of the big screen, thanks to the character-inspired snacks that are often sold during the duration of a movie’s stint in theaters. Concession stands at Japanese movie theaters have also been known to carry limited edition snack items, as well as deliciously unique popcorn flavors like caramel or chocolate.

Don’t expect to snag an oversized bucket of popcorn, though, because the largest popcorn size available is Large.

As for drinks, you can always grab a classic movie theater beverage, or opt for some alcohol like liquor or beer.

Things To Know About Japanese Movie Showings

Not only will you find a blockbuster or children’s film at a Japanese movie theater, but you can also catch a screening of an anime movie as well.

Something to keep in mind before you buy a ticket to a screening is that the ratings system is a bit different in Japan than you might be used to. In Japan, movies are rated on the following scale: G (safe for general audiences), PG-12 (parental guidance for attendees under the age of 12 is suggested), R15+ (viewers under the age of 15 are prohibited), and R18+ (viewers under the age of 18 are prohibited).

American vs. Japanese Movie Theaters

There are so many qualities that set Japanese movie theaters apart from American theaters, like the fact that they offer smoking rooms. Japanese theaters are also filled with leaflets known as chirashi that carry souvenirs based on your favorite films and characters.

 Couple with their feet up at a Japanese movie theater.

If you’re looking forward to catching the next big blockbuster on the night of its release, you might want to check if it’s playing before you get your hopes up. Because Japanese movie theaters give priority to domestic Japanese films, some foreign films can take a few months (or even a year) to arrive in Japan. Still, don’t let a film’s release date interfere with your trip to Japan, because while there will always be another opportunity to see a movie, visiting Japan (and a Japanese movie theater) is a once in a lifetime experience.

Let's take a peek inside a real Japanese movie theater!