Report: Shochiku to ax Cinemark partnership

Shochiku to raise stake in multiplex co. to 53%

TOKYO — Japanese studio Shochiku Co. will dissolve its partnership with U.S. multiplex developer Cinemark Intl. to build theaters in Japan, a financial daily reported Monday.

Shochiku will buy out the 26.66% share Cinemark has in the venture called Shochiku Cinemark Theaters and will bring its own equity stake in the Japanese multiplex company to 53%, the Nihon Keizai reported, citing Shochiku sources.

Shochiku officials said they were unaware of any moves by the company to dissolve its partnership with Cinemark.

Earlier this year, conservative management at Shochiku staged a coup and ousted former president Toru Okuyama. Since January, the new management has been scaling back initiatives undertaken by Okuyama, such as the multiplex venture with Cinemark.

Shochiku’s new management has officially said they have been reviewing the Cinemark deal, but company sources told Daily Variety that new president Nobuyoshi Ohtani, a grandson of the company’s founder, wanted to pull the plug on the joint venture.

First plex bows

The first theater built under the venture was a six screen plex that opened last March 20 in the western Japan city of Kobe. The venture was aiming to build 100 new screens by 2000.

Cinemark decided on Shochiku as its partner in order to establish a presence in the Far East, but it did not know of the plans to oust its partner Okuyama when it signed on with the financially troubled Japanese studio.

Shochiku, still reeling from a management shakeup, said about a month ago that it is expected to post its first net loss in a quarter century for the year ended on Feb. 28. The company is projecting a 9.8 billion yen ($77.78 million) loss for the year.

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