Studio plans to release eight to 10 films a year

Warner Bros. Pictures Japan is ramping up local pic production, according to the unit’s prexy William Ireton.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” Ireton said. “We’ve got 15-20 projects in development and plan to be releasing eight to 10 films a year.”

Warner Japan has distributed domestic pics for several years, most notably helmer Shusuke Kaneko’s hits “Death Note” and “Death Note: The Last Name,” which raked in a combined $79 million in 2006, as well as this year’s franchise spinoff “L: Change the World,” helmed by Hideo Nakata.

But it is now shifting its strategy toward production under Hiroyoshi Koiwai.

“Hiroyoshi is leading a team of 10 people developing projects for us,” said Ireton, adding, “We can’t announce all the titles yet.”

Warner Japan has production credits on what will be its biggest release of this year, helmer Nobuo Mizuta’s “252,” a disaster pic produced by the Nippon Television Network that Warner Japan will also distribute.

Release is skedded for Dec. 6 on 330 screens — close to the 360-screen record set for a local pic when Warner Japan released the second “Death Note” pic in November 2006.

Warner is also on the production committee for helmer Fumihiko Sori’s period piece “Ichi,” which it will distrib, about a blind woman (Haruka Ayase) who is an expert with a sword, based on the iconic “Zatoichi” series. Release is set for Oct. 25.

Upcoming on Warner’s local pic lineup for 2009 is “Subaru,” Lee Chi Ngai’s drama about girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina, set for a March bow.

That will be followed in April by “Oppai volleyball” (Breast Volleyball), a sports-themed teen comedy by helmer Eiichiro Hasumi (“Umizaru 2 — Test of Trust”), and in May by helmer Kazuaki Kiriya’s period drama “Goemon.” Kiriya’s 2004 sci-fi epic “Casshern” was widely distribbed and screened abroad.

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