Fuji Bank, one of Japan's largest city banks, is plunging into film financing in a drive to invest in the production of entertainment software, including films, animation and music.

By the end of 2000, Fuji plans to expand its entertainment investments, reaching a year-on total of $9.5m. The bank is also devising a scheme for securitizing its entertainment software rights and selling shares to investors.

The first target of its new investment strategy will be five animation projects. Starting this September, Fuji will back each project with up to $950.

The production partners will transfer Fuji's revenues from the projects, including a portion of the box office earnings, to a trust managed by Dai-Ichi Kangyo Fuji Trust and Banking.

Among the animation houses receiving investments from the bank are Production IC, which made the cult hit Evangelion SF films. Another recipient is Studio Pierrot, which owns animation rights to the hugely popular GTO comic, about a biker who becomes a school teacher.

Japanese banks have been leery of film investments since a few largely disappointing experiments during the bubble economy era. The emergence of new revenue streams for entertainment products, including satellite TV and the Internet, has encouraged Fuji to take the plunge, however.