Magazine article Variety

Japanese Player Mines Deep Vault for Films

Magazine article Variety

Japanese Player Mines Deep Vault for Films

Article excerpt

Kadokawa Corp. is a major Japanese film company, but hardly a typical one. Unlike the other three members of the Motion Picture Producers Assn, of Japan - the organization that represents Japan's film industry to the world - Kadokawa does not operate a big theater chain.

Also, its lineup of foreign and domestic films does not top the box office charts with the same frequency as those of rivals Toho, Shochiku and Toei. Last year only one Kadokawa release, the World War II film "Fury," earned the Y1.0 billion ($8.3 million) traditionally considered the mark of commercial hit in Japan.

But the company, which traces its history back 70 years to 1945 when literary scholar Genyoshi Kadokawa launched it as a small independent publisher in Tokyo, is engaged in a wide variety of media-related businesses, with publishing still as a core.

That is, unlike other association members, Kadokawa can draw on a huge backlist of bestselling novels and comics, as well as exploit its films and animation over a range of media platforms. One is the popular Niconico video-streaming and live-broadcast site operated by Dwango, a telecommunications and media corporation that integrated with Kadokawa in October 2014 to form the holding company Kadokawa Dwango.

And as the rights-holder of films from the Daiei studio, an industry power from its founding in 1942 until its bankruptcy in 1971, Kadokawa boasts an extensive library of classic titles. It also has its own long list of hits going back to 1976, when then-president Haruki Kadokawa ventured flamboyantly and successfully into filmmaking as a producer and, later, director.

Haruki Kadokawa's strategy of pairing book sales and movie releases was innovative for the time. The nearly 60 films he pro- duced, from whodunnits to splashy period blockbusters, may not have pleased critics, but they were hits with audiences - and were credited with saving the Japanese film industry during a severe slump. In 1994, however, Haruki was arrested on a drug charge and his younger brother Tsuguhiko took over as president.

After that, the company temporarily stopped film production (since resumed), while embarking on series of acquisitions and restructurings that left it with a overstuffed organization chart, with some subsidiaries duplicating each other's functions. …

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