Planet Studyo +1 Cinema Osaka

Planet Studyo +1, プラネットプラスワン, 大阪

by Johannes Schonherr, December 2015

The building housing the Planet Studyo +1 movie theater in the Nakazaki-cho neighborhood of Umeda in Osaka is at first glance a very unassuming brown 3-storey structure.

Planet Studyo +1, Umeda, Osaka
Planet Studyo +1, Umeda, Osaka

On the ground floor, you find the Taiyo no To café, a popular hangout for the young artists and hipsters populating Nakazaki-cho in ever greater numbers. The café serves coffee as well as beer and other drinks and offers a variety of Japanese / Western fusion dishes. It’s a popular gathering spot for pre- and after-show movie audiences.

The staircase to the Planet Studyo Plus One movie theater, located on the second floor of the building, is steep and narrow, made even narrower by the many wooden dispenser boxes hanging on the wall, spilling over with flyers for upcoming shows not only at this theater but for the many movie houses across Osaka that have interesting shows on their schedules.

At the top end of the staircase you are greeted by the ticket seller, working from behind a tiny table loaded with even more movie show flyers. The entrance to the theater’s screening space is just to the right.

There is hardly any space to linger here before entering the theater but there are several large stand-alone metal ashtrays placed right there, so of course, people tend to linger and talk.

Enter the screening room. It’s small with only 35 seats. But the program unfolding on screen has made the Planet Studyo +1 theater a legend not only in Japan but among international film buffs, film historians and cinematic thrill seekers alike.

At the Planet theater, you encounter cinema history in all its many shapes and forms. Though the theater places a certain focus on American films from the 1930’s to the 1970’s, often of the noir variety, be ready to be surprised by the programming choices.

In terms of American films, the movies range from Humphrey Bogart classics to Robert Mitchum crime dramas to the cinematic adventures of the New Hollywood of the 1960’s and 1970’s to the New York New Wave of the early 1980’s to the punk rock antics of the Cinema of Transgression. Occasionally, even GG Allin hits the screen. In English. If at all possible, films are shown in their original language. Often with Japanese subtitles but sometimes without.

At the same time, the Planet theater presents rare re-discoveries of historic Japanese cinema, films not screened for decades and carefully restored for their re-emergence here (before they head for international festivals).

The projection is still largely done from celluloid prints, be they 35mm, 16mm or even Super 8 though films can also be shown from DVDs and Blue-Ray discs.

Kunihiko Tomioka in the projection room of Planet Studyo + 1
Kunihiko Tomioka in the projection room of Planet Studyo + 1

Planet Studyo +1 History

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, film collector Yoshio Yasui had operated a film club named Planet Film Research / Planet Film Library in Osaka. Kunihiko Tomioka was a frequent visitor to the club’s screenings before he moved to Tokyo to pursue a career as screenplay writer.

In Tokyo, Tomioka wrote screenplays for various films, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s The Guard from Underground (1992), is probably the best known film he penned.

Upon his return to Osaka, Tomioka got in contact with Yasui again whose Planet film club had since long ceased operating. Yasui told him about an available space in the basement of the same building in Osaka Doyama-cho in which Yasui had his office and in which he stored his film collection.

It was in this little basement space that Tomioka opened his first theater in 1995, named Planet Studyo +1 in honor of Yasui’s old film club. The theater screened films on the professional 35mm film format even though it had hardly space enough for 20 seats.

The wild days circa 1999 - a young film director at Tomioka's Steenbeck editing table
The wild days circa 1999 – a young film director at Tomioka’s Steenbeck editing table

The Wild Days of the late 1990’s

In 1997, Tomioka was approached by a young director whose graduation film for the Osaka University of Arts (Osaka Geidai) was too scandalous and no theater in the city wanted to show it. The director was Kazuyoshi Kumakiri and the film was Kichiku Dai Enkai (released as Kichiku in foreign markets).

After the successful premiere of his film at Planet Studyo, Kumakiri brought Tomioka in contact with a group of young directors working towards their degree at the Osaka University of Arts.

Tomioka had a 16mm Steenbeck editing table at his home. To freely work on such an editing table was a dream come true for the Osaka film students – and thus Tomioka’s apartment suddenly became the center of an emerging scene of young directors camping out at his house, working on the editing table and turning the apartment into a zone of endless wild parties.

Several directors who later achieved international acclaim emerged from those wild days, most notably Nobuhiro Yamashita (starting out here with Hazy Life, 1999) and Go Shibata (completing his first film NN 891102 (1999) here before shooting his international breakthrough Late Bloomer, 2005).

In 2005, Tomioka moved the Planet Studyo +1 theater to its current location in Osaka Nakazaki-cho.

Poster for Hazy Life by Nobuhiro Yamashita (1999)
Poster for Hazy Life by Nobuhiro Yamashita (1999)

CO2 EX Film Festival

Though the wild days of the late 1990’s are long gone, Tomioka is still very actively working with the young and upcoming filmmakers of Osaka. He features their work in an ambitious annual festival called CO2 (Cineaste Organization Osaka EX), held in larger theaters in Osaka, and he is also deeply involved in producing, funding and promoting new works by young directors.

Poster for the first Co2 EX film festival in 2005
Poster for the first Co2 EX film festival in 2005

Planet Film Document Archives Kobe

Yoshio Yasui has by now moved his film collection to Kobe. Known today under the name Planet Film Document Archives, the collection has grown into one of the biggest privately held film archives in Japan. Yasui and Tomioka jointly operate the archive; the Planet Studyo +1 theater often uses the archive’s vast collection of both Japanese and foreign movies as a film print source for the Planet Studyo theater’s shows.

At the same time, traveling international film guests are always welcome to screen their films at Planet and to discuss them with the audience.

Though the theater itself is small and its seating capacity very limited, it serves as a unique entry point to the wider Japanese independent film and cinema network – both for upcoming Japanese directors and for foreigners trying to screen their work in Japan.

Still from Go Shibata's first film NN891102 (1999)
Still from Go Shibata’s first film NN891102 (1999)

Access

Planet Studyo +1
2 chome 3-12, Nakazakicho
Osaka
Tel: 06 6377 0023
Website: www.planetplusone.com (in Japanese, rarely updated)

Publicity for the shows is still mainly done via printed paper flyers available at the theater, the Taiyo no To café and various other locations in Nakazakicho.

Discussion with international film guests. Kunihiko Tomioka is sitting to the right
Discussion with international film guests. Kunihiko Tomioka is sitting to the right

Getting there

Subway Tanimachi Line to Nakazakicho Station, take Exit 2, make a sharp turn to the right. Planet Studyo+1 theater is about a 3 minute walk, on the right side of the street.

Website CO2 EX film festival: co2ex.org (in Japanese)

Planet Studyo +1 theater on Google maps

Only the Taiyo no To café (太陽ノ塔) is marked on the google map. It is in the same building as the Planet Studyo +1 theater.

Planet Studyo building, the theater is on the second floor
Planet Studyo building, the theater is on the second floor


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