US-basedanimation and live-action producer-distributor IDT Entertainment has signed anagreement to acquire Manga Entertainment, the largest distributor of animeoutside Japan.

The move effectively makes IDT one of the largest animedistributors in operation and strengthens the hand of its DVD and videodistribution subsidiary Anchor Bay Entertainment at a time when the worldwideanime market is reportedly worth $2bn a year.

Manga was set up in London in 1991 and produces,distributes and markets for video, theatrical release and television broadcastand holds the rights to more than 300 titles.

The company sealed its reputation when it co-produced theacclaimed Japanese animated hit Ghost In The Shell, which won a slew of animation and fantasy awards in1997.

IDT chief executive officer Jim Courter said theacquisition would enable IDT to establish 'a foothold in the hottestgenre of anime-style projects coming out of Japan.'

IDT isalso in the early stages of production on two non-anime animated titles -Gene Rodberry's Starpoint Academy and an as yet unnamed feature to be directed byChristopher Reeve.