EXCLUSIVE: Japanese company plans to distribute 12-15 films a year.
Japan’s Pony Canyon today has announced a new dedicated theatrical distribution division.
The company plans to distribute 12-15 films a year starting this year including foreign acquisitions as well as Japanese films, animation and non-film content such as live concert theatrical screenings.
An affiliate of FujiTV under Fuji Media Holdings, Pony Canyon is primarily a leading home video sales company that has been seen on the festival and market circuit as a sales agent as well.
Pony Canyon’s Izumi Yamaguchi [pictured], GM, head of acquisition & distribution spoke with Screendaily in an exclusive interview ahead of the company’s Tokyo press conference today.
The company previously co-distributed films with Shochiku and Gaga, and this year will co-distribute Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor with Toho-Towa. But it was only last year that Pony Canyon hired staff to set up a dedicated theatrical distribution division.
“Since 2011, we’ve been doing solo distribution, but only one or two films a year and co-distribution took up the majority of our films. Starting this year we are increasing solo distribution. All the industry people know that we are very aggressive in doing theatrical distribution but since we are still a newcomer, by collaborating with other distributors, we are absorbing and adapting the skills necessary to succeed as a theatrical distribution company,” he said.
Why start a dedicated division now?
“Japan may have a healthier video market compared to some other territories, however, with the online streaming coming in, the classic “window” is getting more difficult. And the video market is not growing for sure. This encourages us to own the whole rights to ourselves and build up the “windows” according to the shift of business. It means a lot to us if we can control the film distribution which is the first window,” he explained.
“With the addition of the distribution division, Pony Canyon now has a system to fully distribute all-right contents on theatrical, home video, digital and TV in-house and be able to make the most of exploiting the rights of film titles strategically and practically,” he added.
What kind of films?
“It will be two or three major-scale films with big-star cast. Those will be the main business surrounded by other middle-size titles with a clear distinction of genre and concept such as action, sci-fi and suspense. This is important [because] we are a part of Fuji Media Holdings which is a media conglomerate. So-called entertainment titles with known directors and cast are beneficial for the second and third use of titles,” said Yamaguchi.
This year’s line-up includes The Sapphires, All Is Lost, Prisoners, Transcendence, The Expendables 3 and I, Frankenstein. But the company will also be looking for titles by auteur and creative directors atfestival/markets such as Berlin, Cannes, AFM, Toronto and Busan.
“We need a couple big-budget blockbuster films – we are doing the Johnny Depp film Transcendence and Expendables 3. Like $100m studio films. We would like to do that for a couple films each year, but also would like to do more limited genre films in perhaps the $10-20m budget range.
“But also, Lone Survivor – the budget may be about $40m-$50m or something like that. We are very wide in our range. We are not just shopping for limited arthouse films either,” he said.
How many screens?
“In Japan, we’ll usually open about 250-350 screens for one a big-budget blockbuster film. If we have both dubbed and subtitled versions, then maybe 400-500 screens for very big films.
“Then also for the more director-driven films it will be more limited. For the JC Chandor film All Is Lost with Robert Redford coming this March, we are planning on releasing in total 60-80 prints – all DCP,” he said.
For mid-range budget films? “Maybe like 150-200 screens,” he added.
“Marketing in Japan is very, very tough and difficult. In terms of FujiTV, since we are both subsidiaries of Fuji Media Holding it does give us an opportunity to work closely on a promotion of a film, but it’s not always the case. We do work equally with all other TV broadcasters in Japan,” he said.
“As a newcomer in the theatrical distribution field, we don’t want to create marketing on instinct – it’s all about data for us. Since we have done video distribution for years, we are very confident we have the data to base our marketing on.
“Some of us are very young in this field. It takes a very fair long time to carefully plan out what we think is best for each film.
“Our marketing strategy is to have things ready six months before theatrical release. What we want ideally is to have the Japanese title set, teasers and artwork launched out for the audiences at that point. Of course it depends on each film. Smaller ones, maybe four months in advance. The six month mark is to have analysed the film and decided the direction we want to market it in,” he said.