Manga fruit of IDT spree

Deal gives distribbery access to 300 anime titles

IDT Entertainment, which has been snapping up animation facilities and catalogs over the past year, announced Thursday the acquisition of Manga Entertainment, a London-based anime producer and distributor.

Deal gives IDT Entertainment access to Manga’s library of more than 300 anime titles, including “Ghost in the Shell,” along with rights to homevideo, theatrical and television broadcast distribution. IDT’s Anchor Bay will now distribute Manga titles.

In 2003 the worldwide market for anime, including theatrical, broadcast television and direct-to-consumer products, was estimated at over $2 billion.

In the past seven years, Manga Entertainment has released more than 200 titles on DVD and VHS to U.S. retail and rental stores, with over 100 titles currently active. Cartoon Network is scheduled to run a televisions series based on Manga Entertainment’s anime film “Ghost in the Shell” late in the third quarter.

Manga also provides Newark, N.J.-based IDT with another production hub in its growing animation network that includes facilities in New Jersey, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Israel.

IDT — a subsid of IDT Corp., a multinational telecom and tech conglom — has been on an animation buying spree over the past year.

In April, the company bought a minority interest in Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment in a deal to co-develop and co-produce a minimum of six animated projects for direct-to-DVD distribution and broadcast. And after scooping up the Anchor Bay catalog last December, IDT acquired a controlling interest in Vancouver-based Mainframe Entertainment in January while simultaneously buying a 5% share in Archie Comics Entertainment.

Then in March, it bought the Toronto-based animation house DKP Effects. IDT also holds a controlling stake in Film Roman, the animation studio responsible for The Simpsons and King of the Hill.

IDT previously purchased a minority equity interest in Vanguard Animation, the film company founded by Shrek producer John Williams, and entered a joint venture with Vanguard to co-produce and co-own future Vanguard properties for theatrical, direct-to-video and television distribution.

Elsewhere, IDT recently entered into a multifaceted development, production and distribution agreement with Todd McFarlane Prods. to produce animated programming and merchandise based on “Spawn” and other TMP original intellectual properties. And IDT is producing Gene Roddenberry’s “Starpoint Academy” and a feature film yet to be named, directed by Christopher Reeve.

(Simone Kaplan is a reporter for Daily Variety sister publication DVD Exclusive.)