FTN coins thriller follow-up

Fuji Television Network has launched a new type of film fund. Its 27 nationwide affiliates are underwriting the production of “Limit of Love — Umizaru,” the follow-up to the hit 2004 thriller and 2005 TV series about Japan’s Coast Guard divers.

“We can finance the film ourselves — the object is to get the affiliates more involved in publicizing the film,” a Fuji TV Motion Picture source said.

The fund is a one-shot, but if it has the desired PR effect, “we may finance other films the same way,” the source added.

With the construction of hundreds of multiplexes since 1993, local affiliates have assumed a larger role in getting the word out about major films.

For “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the B.O. was split 25/75 between the nine largest cities and the provinces. A decade ago, the proportion would have been reversed.

Fuji TV plans to release one film a month this year, with “Limit of Love — Umizaru” opening nationwide in the Toho chain on May 6.

Fuji’s first release for this year, “Suite Dreams,” has become a major hit, with B.O. expected to top $40 million.

Last year, Fuji TV released 10 films that earned $188 million and included five of the top 10 domestic grossers. The leader, at $36 million, was “The Negotiator,” a spinoff of Fuji’s enduringly popular “Bayside Shakedown” franchise about cops in the trendy Tokyo Bay area.

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