Shochiku, one of Japan's leading distributor/exhibitors, saw its share price rocket to $5.8 (Y715) on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Wednesday Nov 28. In just 25 days, the company's stock has soared by $1.2 (Y141), partly in anticipation of the Dec 1 release of Harry Potter, but also thanks to an impressive revitalisation of the company, which saw it this year post midterm net operating profits for the first time in four years.

In the past three years, under the leadership of president Nobuyoshi Otani, Shochiku has undergone a dramatic turnaround, recovering from the brink of bankruptcy with a restructuring programme that included the closing of Shochiku's Ofuna Studio and its corporate headquarters in the Tsukiji district of Tokyo. The company has also revamped its theatre chain, while acquiring a succession of hit foreign films, including the surprise smash Dancer In The Dark. The line-up for the coming year includes Rush Hour 2, The Lord Of The Rings and Gangs Of New York.

In addition, Shochiku plans to ramp up production in 2002, investing from four to five billion yen ($32 million to $41 million) to produce seven or eight films, including period dramas. Details of this new slate have not yet been announced, but Shochiku plans to release the first title in the autumn of 2002.

In the first half of fiscal 2001, ending in August, Shochiku recorded a net operating profit of $6m (Y734m), its first midterm profit in four years.