Saint Seiya Legend of Sanctuary
photo courtesy of Masami Kurumada/Saint Seiya

Acquisition builds on Italo distrib’s successful release of Toei Animation's ‘Space Pirate Captain Harlock’

MADRID – Lucky Red, one of Italy’s leading independent distributors, has acquired theatrical, TV and DVD rights to Toei Animation’s “Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary,” one of the biggest world premieres at this year’s Annecy Animation Film Festival.

More European titles are under negotiations. Based on the iconic manga and TV series, both first appearing in 1986, “Saint Seiya” has since inspired new TV series, such as 2002’s “The Hades Chapter,” 2012’s “Saint Seiya Omega.”

The original TV series was broadcast in over 80 countries, while the manga series sold 34 million copies, per Toei Animation’s June newsletter. Toei Animation has produced five “Saint Seiya” movies. Helmed by character designer and animation director Keiichi Sato and produced by Masami Kurumada, the manga’s original writer and illustrator, “Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary” is its first CGI feature film.

To see its first commercial release in Japan on June 21, “Saint Seiya” turns on a young woman, Saori Kido (voiced by Japanese idol singer Ayaka Sasaki) who is saved from an assassin by Pegasus Seiya (voice actor Kaito Ishikawa), a Bronze Saint. Learning she is Goddess Athena, with Seiya and his fellow Bronze Saints she heads to the Sanctuary to wage war against its Pope, who once more threatens the world.

Lucky Red is best known for its distribution of art films with crossover potential, such as “Yves Saint Laurent,” ($726,355 this year) or upscale mainstream movies, such “Inside Llewyn Davis ($3.0 million).

But Lucky Red has also released and re-released all of Studio Ghibli’s movies in Italy since 2004. Expanding its relations with Japan, on Jan. 1, Lucky Red bowed Toei Animation’s “Space Pirate Captain Harlock,” helmed by Shinji Aramaki and, like “Saint Seiya,” another celebrated manga-turned-Toei-cartoon, to a standout early 2014 $6.7 million in Italy, the third best result in 2014 for a non-Hollywood studio or non-Italian title.

Toei’s 1978 TV series version of “Space Pirate Captain Harlock” broadcast in Italy.

Gaumont’s live-action movie “Belle and Sebastien,” the highest grossing non-studio/Italian title of this year with a $9.5 million trawl, also saw an earlier anime series, ”Meiken Jolie,” which ran on Italian TV in 1981, creating a present-day nostalgia for the property.

“Following the relationship we built with Toei, it was very natural to release ‘Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary,’ another Toei film based on a TV series hit in Italy,” said Stefano Massenzi, Lucky Red’s acquisitions head.

Lucky Red will bow “Saint Seiya” theatrically in Italy in the late fall on over 200 screens, backed by event promotion, he added.

““We’re targeting broad cinema audiences. There is a big P & A investment because you’re going mainstream,” said Massenzi, adding that “Space Pirate Captain Harlock” played to family audiences, whose parents felt nostalgic about the TV series while also attracting younger auds.

“You need a combination of both audiences to make those numbers.”

Nick Vivarelli contributed to this report

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