Theater Kino in Sapporo

I was surfing the internet the other day and found myself. My wife and I visited Theater Kino in Sapporo at the beginning of the year (my wife is from Hokkaido) to watch Waltz With Bashir (which by the way should have won the Academy Award for best foreign language film, not Departures). Theater Kino is Sapporo's only real independent mini-theater showing alternative and art house movies. The first Theater Kino was founded in 1992 and only had 29 seats; the new one started in 1998 and has two screens, one with 63 seats, the other with 100. It is now located on the second floor of a newly built office building.


It has a nice atmosphere (here's the Cinema Street introduction), if only because the lobby is covered with graffiti written by many of the big people in Japanese independent film (and some foreigners too). It's fun just to find and read what's written there. They also have set up a used book corner, which provides the warmth of printed paper. Plus they have Billiken (from Sakamoto Junji's film) protecting the theater:


My wife and I both know the owner, Nakajima Yo, who came over to talk with us as we waited for the movie. Nakajima-san is one of the leading figures in the mini-theater world--which in Japan is now sporting the name "community cinema." Things are tough for such cinemas. My wife and I went to a symposium about such cinemas in the fall (which was where we last ran into Nakajima-san) and heard many tales of losing customers to cineplexes, of distributors refusing to rent films to such small places, of young people stopping viewing anything but mainstream films. On the surface, the Japanese film industry is doing well, but that hides a warped situation where only a couple major companies are doing well, while most everyone else is in trouble. The Japan Community Cinema Center is trying to support such small theaters, which not only show a variety of films, but present films that are otherwise unavailable outside Tokyo and Osaka. 

Anyway, Nakajima-san had us fill out his "people visiting Kino" questionnaire, which he gives out to "VIP" guests (my impression is he wanted my wife, who was a coordinator at the Yamagata Film Festival and now makes DVDs like The Roots of Japanese Anime, to fill it out. But she made me do it). I gave Nakajima-san the form and he took our picture. Since he didn't seem to happy to get the form from me, I thought that was going to be it, but it seems he put it on the net anyway. I should have guessed it, since he put me on the net for a much earlier visit

Anyway, I do recommend a visit to Theater Kino if you are in Sapporo.

Everything © Aaron Gerow. Send comments and suggestions to