Japan ‘Final’ destination for CG pic

Gaga backs pic with hefty campaign, expects 'excellent' results

TOKYO — It was a nonevent in the U.S. and a low-voltage performer in the rest of the world, but the Japanese-produced “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” is getting a lavish launch in its home market Saturday.

Leading indie distrib Gaga is releasing the CGI pic at 256 cinemas backed by a hefty ad-promo campaign, a flashy Web site and “Final Fantasy”-related games played on the Internet and on mobile phones.

“It’s this autumn’s first big release,” said Gaga spokesman Manabu Miyachi. Distrib held the film until after the summer season, which was packed with U.S. blockbusters and Toho’s toon “Spirited Away.” Miyachi declined to put a figure on the B.O. gross Gaga is aiming for, but predicted “excellent” results.

Gaga is supported by several promo partners, including Meiji Seika, NTT Communications and BIC Camera. Pic was directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi and produced by Square Pictures, which develops and produces videogames. The “Final Fantasy” game was developed initially for Sony’s PlayStation 2.

Square Pictures did not receive any guarantees from Sony in return for worldwide distrib rights excluding Japan. But Square shared the risks with a number of partners, including Gaga, Humax Pictures, indie distrib Amuse Pictures, toy maker Bandai, ad giant Dentsu and broadcaster Nippon TV. Square won’t reveal how much each party invested.

Pic grossed a paltry $36.1 million domestically and, through last Sunday, $38.5 million in foreign territories; after Japan, the last remaining significant territory is Sweden, where it’s slated for release Sept. 21.

The healthiest results to date are France’s $6.5 million, Germany’s $5.3 million and Spain’s $3.8 million. By not ponying up an advance and being prudent with P&A spending, it’s believed Sony is already showing a profit from its territories.

(Don Groves in Sydney contributed to this report).

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