The Japan branch of Universal Studios Parks & Resorts and Warner Bros’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction was originally unveiled in May 2012 with a target late-2014 opening date. They made it: The opening day will be July 15. The announcement was made today in Osaka during a ceremony that included Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, U.S Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and Harry Potter production designer Stuart Craig, who helped plan and build the themed land. The new attraction will be similar to the one in Florida and will include Hogwarts castle — the first of the new attractions to be unveiled today — Hogsmeade and multiple attractions. This will be the second Wizarding World franchise to get up and running following a lucrative launch at Universal Studios Orlando in June 2010 that revitalized that park. Last April, the LA County Board of Supervisors ended a seven-year process that cleared the way to begin construction on NBCUniversal’s 25-year Evolution Plan, which allowed work to begin on Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood last summer.
When it comes to this year’s Foreign Language Film Oscar race, it seems Sundance Selects just can’t catch a break. Coming out of Cannes, the company headed by Jonathan Sehring — who also runs IFC — looked like it easily could have two of the five nominees in the category, especially after its acquisitions took two of the top three prizes at Cannes. The French sensation Blue Is The Warmest Color won the coveted Palme d’Or (usually a key factor in considering a film for Oscar submission), while the Jury Prize (essentially third place) went to Japan’s moving and extremely well-received Like Father, Like Son, which so infatuated Cannes Jury President Steven Spielberg that his DreamWorks is negotiating for an English-language remake.
It seemed at the time that both would be a cinch as their respective countries’ entry in the race, and Sundance Selects was riding high. But as Deadline reported in July, a quirky Academy rule that requires a foreign entry to have opened by September 30 in its country of origin KO’d Warmest Color’s chances, despite Sehring’s best efforts to turn it around. Unfortunately Wild Bunch, the film’s French distributor, was dead set on releasing it October 9, and a qualifying run was ruled out. Now, in what for me is an even more stunning setback, the seven-member Japan Movie Producers Association ignored its country’s high-profile Cannes winner and instead chose a more obscure film, The Great Passage (Fune O Amu) from 30-year-old director Yuya Ishii, the youngest ever to represent Japan in the Oscar contest. That film was released in April — doing nice, if unremarkable, business at the box office. Like Father, Like Son is scheduled for a September 28 release in Japan, a date presumably chosen to make it eligible for the Oscar race. But it’s not to be.
Listen to (and share) the first episode of Deadline’s audio podcast “Global Showbiz Watch, with Nancy Tartaglione.” Deadline’s international editor talks with host David Bloom about Rupert Murdoch’s latest backpedal over the long-festering British newspaper scandals; the new investment tie-up between media powerhouses Bruno Wu and Thomas Middlehoff; and whether China is loosening its restrictions on filmmakers. Finally, with the imminent debuts of The Wolverine, which was filmed substantially in Japan, and a samurai remake of the Oscar-winning Western Unforgiven, they spotlight the entertainment business in the Land of the Rising Sun.
The M4A version of this podcast is designed to run on any device using Apple’s iTunes software, and includes enhanced graphics and links to stories and other resources. The MP3 version of this podcast is designed to play on virtually any device capable of playing digital audio.
Here’s the latest in our series of reports touching on the people, projects and polemics buzzing around the globe. This week’s report follows articles on France, India and Italy. The series will be taking a break for the next few weeks and return in August.
Japan lost its standing as the world’s No. 2 movie market when it was outpaced by China in 2012. At No. 3, it still enjoyed a slight increase in box office with $2.4B compared with 2011′s $2.3B. While China’s local market share dropped in 2012 (to rebound strongly thus far in 2013), Japanese films consistently have been dominant at home since 2008 and hit a 47-year high of 65.7% in 2012, according to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Tastes have changed, say watchers, as Japanese moviegoers seek lighter fare and films that better represent themselves. “Japan is very insular,” a distribution exec says. “They have a hard time exporting and importing films.” The studios are not necessarily suffering on a local level, however. Warner Bros and Fox have had success in Japan recently, working with films based on well-known manga series and TV animations. Added to that, Fox just shot part of The Wolverine locally and Warner Bros in September will release a Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven.
Japan is a complex place to do business. For one, the lack of a mechanism designed for foreign shoots can make filming a challenge. The Wolverine did it, and it’s expected that could help at the box office since it’s a film that represents the Japanese and their culture. But reception in Japan won’t be clear until September 13 when the movie opens there after rolling out most everywhere else in late July and early August. Japan has little trouble with piracy, so day-and-date releases are not the rule.
Also opening on September 13 is Warner Bros’ remake of Unforgiven. Directed by Sang-il Lee, the movie stars Ken Watanabe. (One of a handful of Japanese actors who works in Hollywood and at home, he’ll also star in Martin Scorsese’s Japanese-themed passion project Silence, which starts shooting next year in Taiwan.) The Unforgiven remake was developed for over a year with Lee writing the script. The arc of the story is akin to the original, but samurai are replacing cowboys. It’s set in late 19th century Japan and has Akira Emoto in the Morgan Freeman role. The wisdom of remaking an Oscar-winning Clint Eastwood film could be questioned, but a non-Warner exec opines that “most people won’t know it’s a remake.” The most recent U.S.-to-Japan studio remake was 2010’s Ghost transfer, Ghost: In Your Arms Again, which grossed about $10M locally. (In 2010, there was also indie Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night, a sort of companion sequel to Oren Peli’s original micro-budget hit.)
The data in the MPAA‘s Theatrical Market Statistics report for 2012 are striking: China accounted for $2.7B in box office sales last year, up from $2.0B in 2011. That vaults the country past Japan at $2.4B, a slight increase from 2011′s $2.3B. “China is building 10 screens a day,” MPAA chief Chris Dodd says. “There’s a voracious appetite for product and our films have done well.” He cited recent agreements that enable Hollywood studios to show 30 films a year in China, up from 14. But he says what’s more important is that “there is no restriction on joint ventures which can allow for greater opportunity for product to get in.” Dodd says he just met with the head of the Wanda Group, a major theater owner there (and here, since its acquisition last year of AMC Entertainment). “He’s trying to fill seats and knows that American product draws a terrific audience in China.”
Some studios were frustrated last year when some of their biggest hits were pitted against each other in China. For example, Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight Rises, Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man, and Fox’ Prometheus opened within a week of each other. “Ironically, they all did very well,” Dodd says, although he acknowledges that he considers …
Universal and MRC‘s Ted today passed Skyfall at the Japanese box office and now has grossed $32.5M in the territory, the biggest total so far in 2013. It already was the biggest R-rated comedy of all time in Japan in its fifth week in the territory, where it enjoyed four weeks in a row at No. 1 following a January 18 bow. Skyfall has grossed $32.3M since its December 1 premiere there; The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, meanwhile, has grossed $19.7M since its December 14 release; and Life Of Pi has grossed $17.4M since its January 25 bow.
Overall, Ted has grossed $317.3M internationally and more than $536M worldwide, with Japan its final stop in the release schedule.
Coming off a major U.S. copyright victory against the same rival just a week ago, Apple lost a case today in Japan when a Tokyo court ruled that Samsung‘s mobile devices did not infringe on an Apple patent involved in synching mobile devices and computers. In the U.S. case, a jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple $1.05 billion in damages. Reuters noted that Apple is now seeking bans on the sale of eight Samsung phones in the U.S. market. In Japan, though, Samsung said “We welcome the court’s decision, which confirmed our long-held position that our products do not infringe Apple’s intellectual property.” Bloomberg said that Apple and Samsung have litigated multiple patent disputes on four continents.
EXCLUSIVE: One of the industry’s top deal makers, Climan has been named CEO of a new enterprise, All Nippon Entertainment Works (ANEW), that vows to drive the most ambitious effort yet to spread Japan’s entertainment to English-speaking audiences. “Japan has long been a cultural epicenter of the world’s most creative storytelling,” Climan says. ANEW will be “full partners with the underlying rights holders” to develop content including films, books, toys, animation, and Manga. The venture says that it will adapt, co-develop and produce Japanese content “in partnership with established Hollywood studios and world-class filmmakers.” It has an initial capitalization of $80M from the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ), a public-private partnership created in 2009 that’s supervised by the government and is supported by entertainment powers including Dentsu, Fuji, Mitsubishi, and Sega. INCJ chief Kimikazu Noumi says that Climan’s “extensive experience in working with world-class filmmakers and creative properties” will enable ANEW to become “the gateway to the best creators and creative properties in Japan.” Climan will split his time between ANEW’s headquarters in Tokyo as well as its U.S. headquarters in Hollywood. ANEW’s COO is Kenny Kurokawa, a former exec at Sony and several Japanese movie production companies who’s based in Tokyo.
For nearly a decade in the late 1980s and early 1990s Climan helped to build CAA as a member of the senior management team. He moved to Universal Studios in 1995 and became president of worldwide business development. In 1999 he created Entertainment Media …
This is big news for whichever Big Media corporation ultimately buys Hulu now that bids are in for the online TV service. Until now Hulu’s content providers have been limited to mostly NBCUniversal, News Corporation, and The Walt Disney Company. CBS has long been rumored to join, but today boss Les Moonves announced he was dipping a toe into the enterprise instead of jumping in fully. Back in June, insiders told me that reports claiming holdout CBS was joining Hulu as soon as this fall on a non-exclusive basis were “overblown”. But there were talks going on between CBS with Hulu, which also has been in talks with Viacom and Time Warner for a paid subscription service. Hulu in Japan is the Company’s first international expansion but the service also has an office in Beijing:
NEW YORK and TOKYO– CBS Corporation (NYSE: CBS. A and CBS) and Hulu today announced a multi-year, non-exclusive licensing agreement that will enable certain television shows from across CBS Corporation to be streamed instantly by subscribers to Hulu’s new subscription-only service in Japan.
Under this new deal, Hulu subscribers in Japan will have access to previous seasons of CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, CSI: MIAMI, CSI: NY, NCIS and The CW’s “90210,” as well as a broad range of library programming including “Numb3rs,” “Star Trek” and “TwinPeaks.”
“We’re thrilled to have CBS’s world class content be part of Hulu’s first international market and their new venture in
One day after Netflix’s plan to establish a beachhead in piracy-plagued Spain came to light, comes word that the streaming and DVD giant has chosen select Asian territories for expansion. The goal is to be up and running there by the end of next year and markets with established broadband infrastructure like Japan and South Korea are the most likely targets, insiders with knowledge of the plan indicate. The development follows a report in which Pedro Perez, president of the Spanish producers association FAPAE, confirmed that Netflix had approached members regarding a planned 2012 launch. In comments after the firm’s most recent earnings call, CEO Reed Hastings said that Netflix would enter Latin America by the end of this year and launch in an unnamed market in early 2012.
We don’t know who will own Hulu a few months from now, but whoever does should have some people on staff who speak Japanese. The online streaming service says today in a blog post that it will launch a service there later this year — the company’s first foray abroad. Johannes Larcher, Hulu’s SVP of International, says the company has opened offices in Tokyo with “a dedicated Japanese team designing and running the service.” It will be “the first time entertainment fans in Japan will have access to a large selection of premium feature films and popular TV shows at any time, on four screens (PCs, TVs, mobile phones, and tablets), for one monthly price.” Hulu says it won’t provide other details including pricing until the launch. But Larcher says that “Japanese content has played an important part of Hulu’s content lineup in the United States for a long time already.” The country also has the right infrastructure including “extensive broadband penetration, smart phone and other Internet-connected device ubiquity, and strong consumer interest.” Larcher vows to introduce ”a high value product specifically tailored for Japanese customers.” Hulu has a site, www.hulu.jp, that will be updated with info about the launch plans. Hulu is jointly owned by Disney, News Corp, and Comcast’s NBCUNiversal but is on the auction block.
The two Tokyo theme parks have been closed since last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami (they were used as shelters for park-goers stranded following the quake), and now the Burbank-based company is temporarily suspending operations in the city’s stores and administrative offices. “Our top priority is the well-being of our employees and their families during this challenging time and we will continue to closely monitor the situation as it develops,” Disney said in a statement. The decision comes as the U.S. Embassy today offered citizens safe transport out of the country, joining other nations in advising nationals to stay at least 50 miles from the unstable Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, which lies about 130 miles to the north of Tokyo.
Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea suspended operations due to the effect of the Tohoku Region Pacific Coast Earthquake on 3/11. Theme park operations will continue to be suspended tomorrow and thereafter. We will target 3/21 for a decision and notification on when to expect operations to resume.
This earthquake did not cause major damage to the facilities and building in the themeparks, and we have already proceeded with safety verifications. We will make a decision on the timing of restarting operations carefully, taking into account the safety of the parks, and the recovery of transportation systems as well as neighboring infrastructure.
Two months after the big tsunami episode of CBS’ Hawaii Five-0, the show is facing a real one. Hawaii, where the series is shot, has been under a tsunami warning after the massive 8.9 earthquake in Japan but, according to a rep for CBS TV Studios, which produces the series, Hawaii is shooting today as scheduled as production is not near the water and there has been minimal impact from the disaster in Honolulu. “Back at work, bleary eyed & heartsick, but very grateful,” co-star Daniel Dae Kim tweeted this morning. “As far as I know, everyone is safe.”
UPDATE: Japan Quake-Tsunami Puts ‘Tangled’ And ‘Megamind’ Openings In Limbo; Also Halts Sony Biz Production
UPDATE: Two 3D animation movies were supposed to open big in Japan this weekend for the March school holidays. But Disney’s Tangled and DreamWorks Animation’s Megamind are now in limbo. That scary 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan also looks to have a major impact on the technology industry and in turn entertainment. Sony stopped production in six of its northeastern factories, which produce Blu-ray discs, magnetic heads for hard drives, and batteries. That could affect games, movies, and computers (some of Apple’s components are made in Japan, but there’s been no word whether the quake will affect the launch of the company’s iPad2 that is set for this weekend).
In fact, the entire sector may feel the pain by the halted production and any long-term issues which could have a ripple effect throughout Japan, Hawaii, and of course California. The national touring company of Spamalot packed up and left Ventura because of the tsunami warnings.
Meanwhile, the Vancouver Island beach area in British Columbia where Taylor Lautner and Kristin Stewart and others are filming the finale of the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, were evacuated. Needless to say, Internet chatter made a big deal of this.
In the meantime, Hollywood actors, pop stars and rockers have gone online to express sympathy for victims of the tragedy.