Ex-Shochiku exec to lead Namco move into pic biz

Gamemakers launch Team Okuyama

TOKYO — Japanese arcade gamemaker Namco will launch a movie production company headed by ousted Japanese studio executive Kazuyoshi Okuyama March 30.

The new company, to be called Team Okuyama, will have 10 employees, many of whom left the Shochiku studio when Okuyama was removed in a company coup in January.

Namco said Okuyama has the ability and the connections to make the decisions that will lead to the speedy production of films.

“Forming this new company increases the power of our group,” Namco said in a statement. “It was our goal to form a company that makes movies.”

No plans were announced about the first pic to be made by the new venture.

Namco chairman Masaya Nakamura will be chairman and Okuyama will be president of the new Tokyo-based company.

Okuyama and his father Toru, Shochiku’s president, were ousted by conservative management who said the two were autocratic, arrogant and incapable of making profits.

The younger Okuyama, 43, is one of Japan’s leading producers, with about 40 films under his belt. He has been behind some of Japan’s best films of late, including “The Eel,” co-winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year. He has also produced numerous B.O. flops.

Namco, a major supplier of software for Sony’s PlayStation videogame, recently formed computer graphics studio Polygon Pictures with Sony Computer Entertainment. The company has also acquired a controlling interest in film distribution company Gaga Communications and brought the Nikatsu studio back from the dead with a cash infusion in 1997.

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