‘Bayside 2’ hopes to shake down B.O. record

Sequel opening wide against H'w'd blockbusters

TOKYO — It’s going to be a hot summer for idiosyncratic Japanese sleuth Shunsaku Aoshima, alias heartthrob and star Yuji Oda. After breaking box office records some five years ago with the detective drama “Bayside Shakedown: The Movie” (original title: “Odoru Daisosasen”), the sequel will be ready for a release on July 19 on close to 500 screens (very wide for a Japanese movie), during the peak of Japan’s hotly contested summer season.

It’s the first time in many years that a local non-animated feature dares to go head to head against summer Hollywood tentpoles. Usually they prefer release dates in September or October, with the big slots reserved for surefire animation fare. Some of the robust challengers of “Bayside Shakedown 2” (aka “BS2”) this year: “The Matrix Reloaded” (June 7), “Terminator 3” (July 12) and “The Hulk” (Aug. 2).

“It’s strong competition, but then we are on home turf,” says exec producer Chihiro Kameyama confidently. After all, the first “Bayside Shakedown,” based on the popular TV series of the same name was the second-most-successful non-animated Japanese movie ever, raking in some $84 million at the box office. This alone allows for savvy ad campaigns and marketing over the Internet. The movie’s sophisticated Web site registers some 4.5 million page-views per week.

It also helps that Fuji Television Network is producing the sequel, as it did the first one and the original TV series. “The first film was essentially a film version of the TV drama, as we produced two related parts for TV at the same time,” explains producer Hirotsugu Usui. “The sequel is a film in itself and has to be bigger and more exciting to meet audience expectations.”

Directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro and lensed over 70 days with high-definition digital video equipment, pic tells the story of detective Aoshima (played by Yuji Oda) coping with two murders as well as shenanigans within the hierarchy of the Bayside police station he’s assigned to. And this time around, locations for action-packed scenes include Tokyo’s prominent Rainbow Bridge with breathtaking views of the metropolis interspersed with many new high-rises. CGI by the same team who did “Returner” (a Japanese version of “The Matrix”) helped where Tokyo city bureaucrats blocked location permits.

“BS2” features aggressive product placement and cross-marketing, at least by local standards. Toshiba computers, Sony and other companies are on the BS2 bandwagon.

The budget of “Bayside Shakedown 2” is estimated at $8 million, double the cost of the first but a fraction American tentpoles. Fuji execs ambitiously expect the sequel to break the first’s box office cume — which would give it an enviable profit ratio indeed.

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