Manga adds 3 features, 1 docu to distrib’n slate

Two-year-old distribution company Manga Entertainment, whose grassroots approach to marketing made its domestic bigscreen debut “Ghost in the Shell” a surprise success, has acquired four new pictures for theatrical dis-tribution in the coming months.

On March 21, Manga goes out with its second theatrical release, “Mandela,” a documentary about South African president Nelson Mandela. The film is directed by Jo Menell and Angus Gibson, and produced by Jonathan Demme, Edward Saxon and Menell.

“Mandela,” which bows in New York, L.A. and Chicago exclusive runs, will be launched by benefit premieres in each city.

The other three pics are aimed squarely at college-aged audiences, the same crowd who made Manga’s “Ghost” a specialized success. The Japanimation feature grossed just over $500,000 in its 15-print theatrical run, and went on to sell an impressive 150,000 video units.

In early May, Manga will release Japanese actioner “Tetsuo II: Body Hammer,” Japanese helmer Shinya Tsukamoto’s follow-up to his cyberpunk adventure “Tetsuo: The Ironman.” The sequel has already been released in Japan by Toshiba/EMI and in England by Manga’s U.K. office.

The dark surrealistic thriller focuses on a battle between a mutant skinhead and a Japanese businessman who mutates into a “walking half-metal arsenal.”

In mid-June, the company plans to release another Tsukamoto film, the subtitled actioner “Tokyo Fist,” which debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in 1995.

Manga’s fourth release, tentatively scheduled for August, is “Gravesend,” the ultra-low budget debut feature from 21-year-old Brooklyn-based director Sal Stabile. The film, which unspooled at the Seattle and Hamptons film festivals, traces the tragic events of one night in the lives of four teenage buddies.

Stabile has already caught the attention of Hollywood in a big way. Oliver Stone has lent his name as a presenter on “Gravesend,” and Stabile signed a deal with DreamWorks.

Manga has released 70 video titles since starting its U.S. operations in 1994. The company also has offices in England, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Australia.

Manga’s U.S. video distribution is handled by Polygram.

Manga is owned by Island Intl. Like Island chairman Chris Blackwell, Manga’s top execs, including CEO Marvin Gleicher, cut their teeth in the music business.

“There’s a marketing sense you get from coming up from the street that other people wouldn’t have because they didn’t work in the record business,” Manga exec Greg Forston said.

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