After six straight quarters of improving sales and profits, boosted by such hits as The Twilight Samurai and the Lord of the Rings films, Shochiku is ramping up its slate of domestic and foreign titles.

At a January 23 presentation to 400 exhibitors, investors, analysts and reporters, Shochiku officials, led by president Nobuyoshi Otani, announced they were moving the company from a restructuring to a growth stage with aggressive management policies.

The target is the Y18.0bn ($169.8m) in annual distribution revenues, a company set two years ago.

Among the foreign films on the 2004 lineup Are Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King, The Riddick Chronicles, Man On Fire and Sound of Thunder. For 2005 Shochiku has acquired Raising Stripes, Alexander, Aviator and Eternal Sunshine.

Among the highlights of its 2004 domestic slate are the SF epic Casshern, set for a spring release, and Kakushi Ken -- Oni no Tsume (Concealed Sword -- The Devil's Fingernail), a new period drama by veteran hitmaker Yoji Yamada (The Twilight Samurai), that will open this autumn.

The last time Shochiku attempted such a dramatic ramping up of its production slate was in 1997 with its Cinema Japanesque series, produced under the direction of then vice president Kazuyoshi Okuyama.

The films, however, failed to impress at the box office and Okuyama, together with his father and company president Toru Okuyama, was forced to resign early in 1998. Under the leadership of Otani, Okuyama's successor, the company underwent a major restructuring that included a sharp reduction in production and the sales of the company's landmark Ofuna Studio and the site of its Tokyo headquarters.

Exchange rate: $1 = 106 Yen.