Japanese studio Toei continues to close deals for the 3D reworking of Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale following its market debut at the AFM.
In addition to a major US deal struck with Anchor Bay Films during the market, rights have also been sold to Arrow Films in the UK, Russian Report for Russia, Intercontinental in Hong Kong, and Taiwan’s Catchplay. Negotiations are ongoing with Germany, Australia, Korea, Thailand and Indonesia.
European sales for territories such as France, Spain, Italy and Scandinavia will take longer as Toei must evaluate whether current 2D rights holders are willing to give the 3D version a release.
Arrow Films is planning a small theatrical release of Battle Royale 3D in London. Arrow already held UK rights to the 2D version and will release deluxe DVD and Blu-ray box sets next month.
Toei sold the 3D version on the basis of a five-minute 3D promo reel at AFM. Presales of Japanese films are nearly unheard of in the currently climate, but the controversial film’s reputation has only grown over the decade since its original release in 2000 as Fukasaku’s final film.
Until the Anchor Bay deal, the lack of a sale to the US had been a regular topic of discussion among fans and the industry alike. Despite major studios such as 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers withdrawing offers in post-Columbine America, demand from other distributors was strong in the early 2000s and since.
It was in fact Toei’s executives that were concerned about potential legal troubles of the kind that troubled Natural Born Killers, with Battle Royale’s child-on-child gun violence.
Current Toei international sales manager Tadayuki Okubo was also involved in sales at the time: “I really wanted to sell the film in 2001 but Japanese insurance companies rejected coverage of any potential lawsuits in the US. Perhaps Toei itself overestimated the film’s potential negative influence in the US market after Columbine.”
The absence of similar lawsuits, the advent of 3D and new, more aggressive international leadership at Toei under ex-Walt Disney Japan rep Hideo Suzuki accelerated the recent sale. “Toei’s concerns began to decrease over the ten years. Of course the 3D release was a good chance to make it happen,” Okubo explained.
Anchor Bay also picked up rights to the 2D version and 2003 sequel Battle Royale II: Requiem, directed by Fukasaku’s son Kenta. According to Okubo, Anchor Bay Films EVP Kevin Kasha had been longing for the chance to pick up Battle Royale and its remake rights since his stints at Miramax Home Entertainment and New Line.
In addition to sales of dog movie Wasao, Strangers In The City and Zebraman 2, AFM 2010 became Toei’s most successful market in the company’s history.
Battle Royale 3D hit Japanese cinemas this past weekend on 124 screens.