Towani Corp, a joint venture between Toshiba, Warner Bros and Nippon Television Network, has started production on its first feature film, action fantasy Sakuya, which has Tomoo Haraguchi directing.

Haraguchi is one of Japan's leading make-up artists and special effects supervisors with credits including the horror hit Ring and the Gamera science fiction fantasy series. Sakuya is about a teenage girl with supernatural power who battles goblins with a magic sword she has inherited from her father. TV idol Nozomi Ando stars as the title character.

Towani is producing the film with the backing from Toshiba, Warner and NTV for an undisclosed budget. Release is scheduled for August in the Shochiku and Tokyu theatre chains.

Toshiba said it would increase its commitment to Towani after announcing plans to start talks with AOL-Time Warner about Internet distribution in the Japanese market earlier this week (Screendaily Feb 23). Toshiba wants to develop content and Towani is potentially a strong supplier along with Toskadomain, a joint venture in electronic publishing with Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co.

Towani is planning a second film, but production will not get underway until next year.

Launched in July 1998 with capital of Y300m ($2.7m), Towani plans to make one or two films a year for domestic and international release. NTV and Warner Bros are the leading shareholders with 33.3% stakes, followed by Toshiba (23.3%) and Time Warner Entertainment Japan (10%).