Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund Public Investment Fund (PIF) has increased its stake in Japanese film and TV studio Toei Company, from 5% to 6.03%, according to a report by the Reuters financial news agency. The move comes shortly after Toei published a ten-year plan for international expansion.
Toei includes film and TV production operations, the T-Joy cinema chain and Toei Animation. Last month, it said that it had beaten its film revenue record, thanks to the success of titles including “The First Slam Dunk,” “The Legend of Butterfly” and “One Piece Film Red.”
The stake increase also follows PIF’s February announcement that it had increased its stake in Japanese games and console maker Nintendo to 8.26% and that (along with the Singapore state fund GIC) was a buyer of a $966 million bond issue from Korean entertainment-tech firm Kakao Corp.
Entertainment appears to be a significant part of the PIF’s vision for a post-oil economy. The firm also has stakes in three other Japanese games firms Nexon, Capcom and Koei Tecmo. PIF is also one of the prime movers behind LIV Golf, a golf tour to rival the currently dominant PGA and paid $500 million in 2020 for a 5.7% chunk of Live Nation.
“Victory,” a South Korean movie about cheerleading, has begun production under the direction of Park Bum-soo (“Red Carpet,” “Single in Seoul”). The film stars singer-actor Hyeri (“Reply 1998”) and Park Se-wan (“Never Twice”) as two unlikely friends who for a cheerleading team in the 1990s. Production is by Annapurna Film.
A petition has been launched on Change.org to ask the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences to rescind the invitation made to “John Wick 4” actor Donnie Yen to be a presenter at next week’s Oscars ceremony. The petition accuses Yen of supporting the Chinese Communist Party’s violation of human rights, notably voicing his support of Hong Kong’s introduction of a National Security Law and accusing pro-democracy protesters of being rioters. “If the Oscars Committee continues to invite such a person as guest presenter,, it will damage the image and reputation of the film industry,” the petition alleges. At the time of going to press, the online petition had attracted 30,000 signatures. Yen is currently in Beijing as a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, part of China’s parliament. He has recently been vocal about the stereotyping of Asian performers.
FORMATS AT MIPTV
Nippon TV, Japan’s leading multiplatform entertainment firm, will pitch two new formats at the upcoming MipTV convention in France: scripted show “Rebooting” and unscripted show “Doki Doki Video.” “Rebooting,” which has 60-minute episodes, has a “Groundhog Day”-like premise of a woman who is pronounced dead in a car accident, but get the chance to relive her life over multiple times. While she gets a big surprise from finding that she is not the only one reliving her life, the comedy is focused on the banal and bizarre daily occurrences. It is currently enjoying success on Japanese TV and is performing strongly on SVOD and AVOD and social media. “Doki Doki Video” (30–180-minute episodes) is a family-oriented game show which puts celebrities to the test by asking them to hold back their facial expressions while facing the most shocking viral videos.
The Garden, part of ITV Studios, has appointed Fiona Freed as its chief operating officer, ahead of the departure next month of joint CEO Nicola Hill. Freed has held key executive positions in the U.K. and at The Discovery Channel. She has also run her own consultancy, The Public Square. Most recently she has advised and worked as interim MD at both Story Films and Chimp Television. The Garden earlier appointed Helen Bart and Jo Harcourt-Smith as executive producers as it expands its slate across genres, broadcasters and territories. Recent months have seen reality and constructed factual commissions including Netflix’s “Squid Game: The Challenge” (a co-production with Studio Lambert,) “Alone” for Channel 4, and four-part series “Dark Phone” for Channel 4.
Crispin Lilly has been appointed as the managing director of Showcase Cinemas U.K. Lilly, who will join Showcase at the end of April, had previous stints at cinema chains Cineworld and Everyman and, more recently, worked on a consultancy basis with The Really Local Group, bringing accessible cinema to smaller catchment areas, alongside his charitable work as trustee of MediCinema.
Italian distributor and producer Notorious Pictures has appointed Benedetta Galbiati as head of scripted series development and production. Galbiati joins Notorious from Lux Vide, where she was head of international development. She previously held key roles at Mediaset and Endemol Shine Italy where she was head of scripted. “The choice of Benedetta Galbiati, with her first-class track record, is a statement of our company’s ambition to make a significant leap forward in the production of high quality TV entertainment,” said Notorious CEO Stefano Bethlen in a statement. Notorious productions include the Dean Craig-directed rom-com “Love Wedding Repeat” for Netflix.
The Nippon Connection film festival in Frankfurt, Germany, is set to unspool June 6-11 with a selection of some 100 short and feature-length movies from Japan, as well as culinary experiences, workshops and concerts. Its core theme this year will be ‘cityscapes and countryside.’ For the first time, the festival will present the Nippon Rising Star Award, celebrating an up-and-coming talent of the Japanese film world. The awardee is singer and actress Miura Toko, who recently held the main role in the Academy Award-winning drama “Drive My Car” (2021) by Hamaguchi Ryusuke.
The Olivier Awards, the U.K.’s pre-eminent theater awards, have unveiled the recipients of their “industry recognition” award for excellence in their work and dedication to the industry. This year the four recipients are casting director Pippa Ailion, Autograph Sound founder Andrew Bruce, Inc Arts U.K. founder Amanda Parker and Peter Wilson, joint chief executive of PW Productions.
“Our 2023 winners more than meet the award criteria, inciting real industry change, and paving the way for generations to come in their fields,” said Eleanor Lloyd, president of Society of London Theatre.
Bollywood star Janhvi Kapoor (“Mili”) has joined the cast of the Indian film with the working title “NTR 30,” led by “RRR” star NTR Jr. The film is directed by “Janatha Garage” director Koratala Siva and will release on Apr. 5, 2024. It is produced by Hari Krishna K. of NTR Arts and Sudhakar Mikkilineni of Yuvasudha Arts.