Japan's leading TV broadcaster Fuji TV is aggressively expanding its business into film production and foreign film acquisitions.
This summer, Fuji TV enjoyed enormous box office success with Bayside Shakedown Two: The Movie, which grossed $142.5m at the domestic box office -setting an all-time biggest box office record for Japanese live-action films.
"We have been producing films for 20 years and had some commercial successes. This year, we are expanding our film production division in an aim to increase the number and variety of films that we produce. We will continue to produce large budget commercial films but in addition to this we will put more focus on producing art house films and documentaries for theatrical release," said Toru Miyazawa, a producer of Fuji TV film production division.
Following the successes of foreign documentaries in Japan including Bowling For Columbine which took $4.1m and Winged Migration (Le Peuple Migrateur) which earned $1.6m, Fuji TV is making its first documentary, Haha Yo! (Mother!)
Currently in post-production, Haha Yo! is about the life of a woman who emigrates from North Korea to Japan. Co-distributed by Fuji TV and Pole-Pole Higashi-Nakano, an indie film theatre, Haha Yo will be released on one screen in April in Tokyo. Fuji TV plans to continue producing documentaries with budgets between $83,000 to $166,000.
Meanwhile, Fuji TV is also keen on film acquisitions. The company acquired the all rights of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy together with Nippon Herald and Shochiku. Fuji TV also acquired Dogville with Gaga Communication and Lost In Translation with a leading advertising agency Tohoku Shinsha.
Fuji TV is producing four new titles this year, all distributed by Toho On Jan 17, Fuji TV releases Gege, a romantic love story between a man who is losing eye sight and his supportive girlfriend; in June, Umizaru, a story about a group of young trainees to be coastal guards; in August, Nin Nin Ninja Hattorikun: The Movie, a live-action adventure based on a hit comic book about a Ninja boy; and in Autumn, Swing Girls, a feel-good story of a group of high school girls in a jazz band.
Fuji TV is expecting to achieve $83m sales from its film business of fiscal year 2004 starting April 2004 and ending March 2005.