Japan's Tokuma Group plans to invest in the country's largest multiplex operator Warner Mycal, as well as make films exclusively for the chain, according to group president Yasuyoshi Tokuma.
The moves form part of Tokuma's strategy to create a vertically integrated film company. The group already includes the Tokuma Shoten publishing company, Daiei film studio and Studio Ghibli animation house.
Tokuma plans to invest in Warner Mycal when it increases capitalisation in May or June, at which time it will also appoint a member to the Warner Mycal board. The exact amount of the stake and details of the partnership are still being negotiated by Tokuma and Warner Mycal.
The deal with Tokuma may well help Warner Mycal secure not only Studio Ghibli and Daiei films, but also those of Disney for its 28 sites throughout Japan. Tokuma currently has a distribution partnership with Walt Disney Co, under which Disney handles worldwide video sales, excluding Asia, of selected Studio Ghibli and Daiei films. Disney is also handling worldwide theatrical distribution, excluding Asia, of Studio Ghibli animated period film Princess Mononoke. The film set a new box office record in Japan in 1997 before being released in the US by Miramax last autumn.
Since its launch in 1991 - as a joint venture between Time Warner and the Nichii supermarket chain - Warner Mycal has become Japan's third-largest exhibitor after Toho and Toei.