"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Out from the Shadow of Chaiyo Productions


Man, I had a great time, but I'm still decompressing from this year's WonderCon; but just to tide you over in the meantime, here's some Ultra Good news from Thailand:

Ultraman Entering a New Era:
Media Network Signs Japanese Superhero

Woranuji Maneerungsee
Bangkok Post, February 26, 2008

TOKYO -- Ultraman may not save the world, but he could bring Samart Chuasiriphattana a fortune.

Mr. Samart's Media Network Retail Co, which operates 150 home entertainment outlets and a similar number of kiosks in hypermarkets nationwide, recently signed a four-year contract with Japan's Tsuburaya Productions for the rights to the Ultraman Mebius character.

"The timing was good because the dispute over licence rights for Ultraman between Tsuburaya and Thailand's Chaiyo Productions, which had dragged on for more than a decade, was finally settled in early February when the Thai Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Japanese firm. The court agreed that a 1976 contract used by Chaiyo's Sompote Saengduenchai was a forgery.

The movement opens a new chapter for Mr Samart's business, as he can now grant licences as well as distribute CDs, VCDs and DVDs.

Also, it will open a new chapter for Japanese superheroes in Thailand.

Media Network won the rights for 50 episodes of ULTRMAN MEBIUS, which is scheduled to air on Channel 9 for the first time this July. VCDs will be launched in the beginning of April. The company may show new Ultraman movies, and it also hopes to gain lucrative income from granting licences for merchandise manufacturers.

It has set aside 25 million baht for a four-year marketing plan to raise awareness, and anticipates 100 million baht in sales revenues from all Ultraman Mebius products by 2011.

Mr. Samart, the managing director, said the company was interested in the Ultraman character because Japanese superheroes showed good prospects for growth. Since 2002, no marketing activities have seriously promoted such characters locally. Granting licences for merchandise would generate lucrative revenues, he said.

"As for marketing in the home entertainment business, it is necessary to think about a total solution, which includes merchandise. We would like to make them legally," said Mr. Samart.

He said the company was in talks with about 10 merchandise manufacturers, including makers of stationery, IT accessories and apparel.

Atsushi Saito, international sales manager for Tsuburaya Productions, said Tsuburaya would work with Media Network in Thailand.

"Until last year, Thais had not seen any legal products in the market. From now, we want to infiltrate the Thai market with legitimate products from our company,"said Mr Saito, who declined to mention the legal disputes, saying he was not authorised to talk about them.

Tsuburaya is looking forward to increasing sales in potential markets such as Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore. The company would like to see more merchandises in those markets as they can freely license all the characters and anticipated more sales of VCDs, DVDs and merchandise.

With a clear business picture in the Thai market this year, the company is optimistic that licence fees would reach US$1 million, about 10 times more than last year.

Tsuburaya will continue to support local licensees in Thailand and will introduce a Japanese style of merchandising and providing advise for Thai manufacturers.

Though more than 40 years old, Ultraman characters are recognised in many countries. About 90% of the revenues come from Japan, with the rest from the international market. China is the company's largest market, while Thailand ranks third.

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