Shochiku has been named International Exhibitor of the Yearby ShoWest, the first Japanese distributor and exhibitor to win the award sincethe event launched in 1996.

Shochiku president Junichi "Jay" Sakomoto willreceive the award at the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas on March 14.

A leading exhibitor in Japan, Shochiku operates more than150 screens, both in multiplexes and single-screen theatres, while havinglong-term working relationships with many independent theatre owners.

With its partners Toho and Toei, Shochiku is to build andoperate a multiplex in the new JR Osaka Station Shinkita building that willoffer twelve screens and 2,500 seats, making it the largest in Japan.

Construction of the building is scheduled to start in theautumn of 2006, with opening planned for 2011.

In nearby Kyoto, Shochiku will open a new seven-story MOVIXmultiplex on April 23, where screens will be situated over six floors, with theground floor occupied by a bookstore.

As a distributor, Shochiku enjoyed a bumper year in 2004,grossing $192m (Y20bn) - a 230% increase in revenues over 2003 - and a new company record.

Among its releases were Lord Of The Rings: The Return OfThe King, the smash-hit family drama Quill and the SF hit Casshern.

The slate for 2005 includes The Aviator, Million DollarBaby, Memoirs Of A Geisha, Kinsey and Racing Stripes.

The company celebrates its 110th anniversary this year withretrospectives at the Hong Kong and New York film festivals, as well as withspecial performances and commemorative events.

During the Berlin Film Festival Shochiku was presented withthe Berlinale Camera award, the first company to ever receive the honour.