A new company backed by the government will buy the rights to Japanese anime, toys and other creative products and tout them to Hollywood producers.
All Nippon Entertainment Works Co., which has received 6 billion yen (about $80 million) from the 90-percent government-sponsored Innovation Network Corp. of Japan (INCJ), will begin acquiring rights this month. It plans to invest 3 billion yen over the next three years to acquire the rights to 10 products and get movies made.
Hollywood has a long history of relying on Japanese creativity. Perhaps the most famous example is John Sturges’s "The Magnificent Seven" (1960), a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s "Seven Samurai" (1954), but more recent examples include remakes of the horror movie “Ring” (1998), released in the United States as “The Ring” in 2002, and the romantic comedy “Shall We Dance” (1996), which starred Richard Gere in its 2004 Hollywood remake.
The real task for All Nippon Entertainment Works, which was set up at the end of last month, will be to ensure that profits from the remakes start flowing to Japan.
In the past, the Japanese rights holders have often sold out their interests to producers overseas. When movies have become hits, they have not necessarily had a cut of the profits.
All Nippon Entertainment Works will take a hands-on approach, talking with movie producers in the United States on scenarios and the selection of directors and actors.
The Hollywood movie "Transformers,” which is believed to have grossed 2 trillion yen, including merchandise sales, was based on toys produced by the Japanese toy maker Takara Tomy. However, the right to make the movie in North America was obtained by the U.S. toy company Hasbro Inc.
Hasbro's sales revenue from the movie and related merchandise amounted to about $600 million (about 46.8 billion yen) in fiscal 2009. Takara Tomy only made 15.1 billion yen.
"In those days, we did not have the know-how to make a movie based on the toy. We were not able to accept the risk of investing (in the movie) either," said Keita Sato, Takara Tomy's vice president.
Takara Tomy, which is now aiming to make a movie based on the Japanese anime, "Gatchaman," plans to work in partnership with All Nippon Entertainment Works, along with trading house Mitsubishi Corp.
Exports by Japan’s cultural industries, which are being promoted by the government and trade bodies under the “Cool Japan” brand, amounted to about 4.5 trillion yen in 2009.
The government wants to increase that figure to 17 trillion yen in 2020. All Nippon Entertainment Works is likely to serve as a key organization in that drive.
"In the United States, there is a shortage of content and Japanese content is widely known and original. Japan has the biggest reserve of content in the world," said Tetsuya Fujimura, president of Tokyo-based planning company Filosophia, which is promoting the Japanese manga "Golgo 13" and other content for adaptation into movies in the United States.