Shout! Factory, Eleven Arts Set March 22 Release Date for ‘Millennium Actress’ Steelbook

Shout! Factory and Eleven Arts on March 22 will release the classic 2001  anime feature Millennium Actress as a Blu-ray Steelbook.

The release includes the original Japanese audio and the 2019 English dub, as well as a number of bonus features including a making-of featurette, highlighted by a rare interview with director Satoshi Kon. Fans can preorder their copies now by visiting ShoutFactory.com, and orders placed on the site will receive a collectable poster as a gift with purchase, while supplies last.

Millennium Actress has won countless awards and recognitions, including Grand Prize winner in the Japan Agency of Cultural Affairs Media Arts Festival.

The film, from famed anime studio Madhouse, was hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a lovely Valentine to the golden age of Japanese filmmaking and an era of gentler, deeper feelings.”

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In the film, the abrupt shutdown of Ginei Studios prompts filmmaker Genya Tachibana and his assistant to interview its reclusive star, Chiyoko Fujiwara, who had retired from the spotlight 30 years earlier. As Fujiwara recounts her career, Tachibana and his crew are pulled into her memories, where they witness her chance encounter with a mysterious man on the run from the police.

Bonus features on the Blu-ray Steelbook include:

  • “The Making of Millennium Actress,” with a rare interview with director Satoshi Kon;
  • Voice actress Laura Post interview;
  • Voice actress Abby Trott interview;
  • Producer Taro Maki interview;
  • Producer Masao Maruyama interview.
     

‘Gintama The Very Final’ Anime Feature Readied for Disc, Digital Release

Gintama The Very Final, the third and final chapter in anime legend Hideaki Sorachi’s original “Gintama” manga series, will be released in a Blu-ray Disc and DVD combo pack on Feb. 8.

The film will be available two weeks earlier for digital purchase on Jan. 25.

From Eleven Arts and Shout! Factory, the new feature film makes its North American home entertainment debut following a theatrical release this past fall.

The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack includes two versions of the film — English voice cast and the original Japanese audio with English subtitles) — and an exclusive 16-page booklet packed with character art and storyboards. Consumers who  order Gintama The Very Final Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Shout! Factory will receive an exclusive poster, while supplies last.

Directed by Chizuru Miyawaki, Gintama The Very Final adapts some of the final moments of the original manga with new elements specifically crafted for the film. The lead roles of the Odd Jobs members are reprised by the team of voice talent from the third season of the “Gintama” series, including  Michael Daingerfield as Gintoki Sakata, Cole Howard as Shinpachi Shumura, and Jocelyne Loewen as Kagura. Kyle Colby Jones, who voiced the character Shinsuke Takasugi, and the ADR writer and director for Gintama: The Movie, reprises his roles for Gintama The Very Final.

 

Anime ‘Shirobako: The Movie’ Slated for Home Release

Shout! Factory will release Shirobako: The Movie as a Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo pack, and for digital download, Dec. 7.

A love letter to the anime industry from Eleven Arts Studios, the anime film about making anime is a sequel to the anime television series of the same name, which has also been adapted as a manga series. Director Tsutomu Mizushima (Girls und Panzer, Prison School) and screenwriter Michiko Yokote (Naruto, Cowboy Bebop) lent their talents to the movie after working on the series.

Four years after the events of the series, the movie finds Musashino Animation has gone through drastic changes and things are looking bleak for the studio. One day, Aoi Miyamori is offered a role managing a new theatrical animation project. With only a few months left before the deadline, it’s up to Aoi to work alongside both familiar faces and new to finish the project in time.

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Bonus features on the Blu-ray combo pack release include a teaser and trailer never before seen in North America, additional promotional videos, and a four-page booklet with character art.

Eleven Arts is a Los Angeles-based distribution company known for bringing acclaimed anime films to North America. Eleven Arts’ anime titles most recently include A Silent Voice, Millennium Actress, Penguin Highway, Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms and others.

Shout! Factory Sets Jan. 25 Blu-ray Disc Release of Japanese Anime Favorite ‘Kamen Rider’

Shout! Factory has announced a Jan. 25 release date for Kamen Rider Zero-One: The Complete Series, an eight-disc Blu-ray Disc collection featuring all 46 episodes of the popular Japanese anime TV series.

The collection also includes the movie RealxTime and five special episodes.

“Kamen Rider Zero-One” is the 30th series in the “Kamen Rider” franchise. It premiered in September 2019. The series revolves around technological singularity and artificial intelligence. A company called Hiden Intelligence, which faces threats from a cyber-terrorist group that wants to conquer and then kill the human race through a tech uprising.

The release comes as part of a continuing celebration of the landmark series’ 50th anniversary.

Originally premiering in 1971, the long-running Japanese television series “Kamen Rider” follows the exploits of a masked, motorcycle-riding hero who fights the forces of evil. It’s been the No. 1 kids’ program in Japan for nearly 50 years, according to Shout! Factory.

Wide-Release ‘Weathering With You’ 4K Blu-ray Arriving Jan. 4

Shout! Factory and GKIDS are re-releasing the 2019 anime film Weathering With You 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack in standard packaging Jan. 4, 2022.

The 4K disc was previously released in November 2020 as part of a limited-edition Blu-ray boxed set that included a CD soundtrack, booklet, mini-poster and additional swag.

The film from director Makoto Shinkai and the creative team, including producer Genki Kawamura, behind the critically-acclaimed Your Name, features music from the hit band RADWIMPS, and is backed by an all-star voice cast including Lee Pace, Alison Brie and Riz Ahmed.

The summer of his high school freshman year, Hodaka runs away from his remote island home to Tokyo, and quickly finds himself pushed to his financial and personal limits. The weather is unusually gloomy and rainy every day, as if to suggest his future. He lives his days in isolation, but finally finds work as a writer for a mysterious occult magazine. Then one day, Hodaka meets Hina on a busy street corner. This bright and strong-willed girl possesses a strange and wonderful ability: the power to stop the rain and clear the sky.

Bonus Features include an interview with Shinkai, a “Weather Front” featurette, “Talk Show: Makoto Shinkai and Yumiko Udo”; a director filmography featurette, and trailers and TV spots.

Chinese Anime Fantasy ‘The Monkey King: Reborn’ Due Digitally and on Disc Dec. 7 From Well Go

The Chinese anime action-adventure fantasy The Monkey King: Reborn will be released digitally, and on Blu-ray and DVD Dec. 7 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Playing off the three “Monkey King” live-action films, The Monkey King: Reborn follows the short-tempered trickster after he is insulted while visiting a temple with his master Tang Monk. Outraged, he destroys a magical tree and accidentally releases the ancient King of Demons, who kidnaps Tang Monk as revenge for his long imprisonment. Now, Monkey King and his fellow disciples must rescue their master within three days, before the demon king regains his full power and unleashes his armies to destroy the Earth.

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Directed by Wang Yun Fei (four-film “Yugo & Lala” franchise), The Monkey King: Reborn features an all-new English dub for this release.

Netflix Releases Mini Episode of Pending ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Series

Netflix Oct. 19 released a mini episode of “Cowboy Bebop,” the live-action adaptation of the eponymous anime series that ran in the 1990s. The full 10-episode series streams on Nov. 19.

The original Japanese sci-fi neo-noir anime series featured 26 episodes set in 2071 showcasing a trio of bounty hunters traveling in their Bebop spacecraft.

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The Netflix mini episode, “Cowboy Bebop: Lost Session,” stars John Cho as Spike Spiegel, Daniella Pineda as Faye Valentine, and Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black, in their pursuit the main protagonist Vicious (Alex Hassell).

Netflix hired the show’s original anime illustrator, Shinichiro Watanabe, and composer, Yoko Kanno, to set the musical tone.

FilmRise, TMS Entertainment Partner to Distribute 38 Anime TV Shows, Movies

FilmRise, a New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has entered into a distribution deal with TMS Entertainment, one of the world’s largest anime studios. The deal gives FilmRise AVOD rights to 38 anime television series and films which include over 1,100 episodes, in the United States and Canada.

Programs include multiple seasons and films from the highly popular
franchises “Lupin the 3rd,” “Sonic X,” “Virtua Fighter” and “Case
Closed.” In addition, the TV series “Sherlock Hound,” “Monster Rancher,” “ItaKiss,” “Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple,” “Saint Seiya:
The Lost Canvas,” and the classic children’s film “Little Nemo,” among
others, are included in the deal.

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FilmRise will distribute to AVOD/FAST platforms, and FilmRise’s Streaming Network of Channels where the programs will stream on a soon to be launched FilmRise-branded OTT Anime-focused channel.

“TMS Entertainment is one of the world’s premiere anime studios, and a key player in this genre that is experiencing tremendous growth with streaming audiences around the world,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions, said in a statement.”These highly sought-after productions from TMS are an incredible addition to our offerings in this increasingly popular vertical.”

Sam Maseba of TMS Entertainment added, “Partnering with FilmRise allows us to increase exposure of these highly-popular anime programs.  Already having a dedicated and loyal following around the world, these hit series can now be enjoyed for free on streaming platforms in North America.”

Crunchyroll, Fuji TV Partner to Develop and Produce New Series

Global anime brand Crunchyroll and Japanese television network Fuji TV are partnering to develop and produce new series. The titles will be broadcast in Japan on Fuji TV’s +Ultra programming block and streamed on Crunchyroll in more than 200 countries and territories.

Under the partnership, Crunchyroll will work with Fuji TV and creative company Slow Curve to co-develop and co-produce a slate of series beginning in April 2022. The upcoming lineup includes “Estab-Life,” an original title by producer and director Goro Taniguchi (“Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion”) and a new project by popular manga artist Tsutomu Nihei (“Aposimz,” “Knight of Sidonia,” “BLAME!”) and Polygon Pictures.

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Crunchyroll will exclusively stream each series day and date with the premiere on +Ultra, Fuji TV’s midnight anime block that launched in October 2018 for viewers in Japan. The series will be streamed on Crunchyroll to the brand’s global community of more than 5 million subscribers and more than 120 million registered users. Crunchyroll will also manage the licensing and consumer products rights for each title worldwide outside of Asia.

Fuji TV and Crunchyroll are currently collaborating on “Muv-Luv Alternative,” an anime based on a hit game. This series will examine how humanity lives and dies on the brink of extinction. Starting in October, Fuji TV’s +Ultra block will air the series and Crunchyroll will exclusively stream the series worldwide outside of Asia.

Slow Curve is an integrated creative company that has been involved with the content planning and promotion of various popular anime series. The company will work with Fuji TV and Crunchyroll to create anime for global fans.

Q&A With Garson Foos: The Ever-Expanding Universe of Shout! Factory

Garson Foos is CEO of Shout! Factory, a leading independent film distributor that since its launch in 2003 has branched out into streaming while doubling down on its commitment to physical media. A cousin to the legendary Rhino Records label, co-founded by older brother Richard and sold to Warner Music in 2001, Shout! is known for its lavish boxed sets and collections like last year’s award-winning collection of “Friday the 13th” movies as well as its support of anime and other niche genres.

Media Play News spoke with Foos as part an ongoing series of conversations with home entertainment leaders past, present — and future.

MPN: At a time when the big studios are still suffering from the lack of fresh product resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of movie theaters, you seem to be releasing more content, both digitally and on disc, than ever. Can you put a number on how many titles you’ve released over the past year and how that compares to the prior year? And what’s the driver?

Foos: Our deal and release flow is stronger than ever. We had a lot of titles in the pipeline prior to the pandemic, and we benefited from the vast majority of our releases not requiring a theatrical release. We released two to four new films a month, and another 10 to 15 library releases. Beyond that we released a good number of library films and shows digital only. We released hundreds of episodes of both “The Johnny Carson Show” and “The Carol Burnett Show” only digitally. We have broadcast rights to the entire Stephen J. Cannell library worldwide, and we have other digital rights on a smaller number of those shows. We also started releasing seasons of the “Ultraman” series for digital streaming, largely on our TokuShoutsu channels. So a large amount of content is released physically, as well as a lot of additional content coming out digital only.

MPN: Shout! Factory continues to be particularly strong in anime. What prompted this, and how do you market your product to anime fans?

Foos: We’ve always been really good at playing in the niches. We’re pop culture junkies from way back, and we got into the kids business big in 2009 with Hasbro and their animated “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe” series, as well as “My Little Pony.” There were several rare Japanese-made “Transformers” series that we distributed.  We also had big success with the the “Power Rangers” series years later, and uncovered the Japanese versions — “Super Sentai” — and did well with those series. It made sense to move into anime from our roots. Melissa Boag is our head of Kids & Family and she had her eye on the anime business for years. She helped us acquire the film In This Corner of the World, which was beautiful and exceeded our expectations. Soon after that we struck up a relationship with GKIDS, who are the best in the business in anime film. Through them, we got the Studio Ghibli library in late 2017. Together with GKIDS we released new deluxe versions of the films on DVD and Blu-ray, and the sales were far beyond expectations. In late 2019 GKIDS was able to make the titles available for the digital transactional business and we worked with them on that. We’ve (via GKIDS) put out many other new and library films, including Promare and Weathering With You last year, which have performed extremely well. We also work with Eleven Arts, which had the film Silent Voice in 2019, which did very well, and we have several more really good projects coming with them. Anime is one of the best categories that is not dominated by the major studios, and it’s a growing category for us that we see continuing.

MPN: Despite your obvious commitment to transactional and, in particular, physical media, Shout! does have other business models. Can you give us a brief rundown about other distribution platforms you have under the Shout! umbrella?

Foos: We distribute directly to just about every account in all revenue streams. We’ve been highly focused on growing our digital and broadcast business in the last many years. Our combined non-physical businesses have doubled each of the past two years and will again this year. Our TVOD business and ad supported streaming are the two biggest areas. Licensing sales for streaming services and broadcast is growing rapidly and is also significant. The Shout! Factory TV business, including our Mystery Science Theatre 3000 channel, The Carol Burnett Show channel, Johnny Carson TV and TokuShHOUTsu channels are a big part of the ad-supported digital streaming business. They are FAST channels on some platforms and on demand on others, and they’re everywhere you’d want to be. We see a lot of growth potential in our channel business, and in our digital distribution business in general. As we continue to get more and better content both on the library and new film side, and see the number of platforms and market size grow, we’re going to see big growth for Shout.

MPN: What’s next for Shout, other than the growth areas you mentioned already?

Foos: We’re starting to do some of our own original productions and see a lot of opportunities here, while doing it with a low-risk approach. We partnered on the production of the Western Old Henry starring Tim Blake Nelson. It comes out in October and premiered at the Venice Film Festival to a fantastic response. We’ve made deals in all the major international territories thanks to the Venice success.  We had seen indie Westerns succeeding transactionally, and thought that it would be a good genre to produce ourselves. We had been trying to get one made for years, and finally with Hideout Pictures we were able to get Tim Blake Nelson to take the lead role, and it came out extremely well. We’re going to do another one with them.

With our partner Joel Hodgson we had rebooted “Mystery Science Theater 3000” after buying the rights to the library and brand in 2015. Given the passionate loyalty of the audience we had crowd-funded to raise the money for the first reboot season (11). We then sold it to Netflix, which ordered a second season but didn’t continue after that. We crowd-funded again this year and raised $6.5 million so we’re making another 13 episodes. The first one should premiere in February for the Kickstarter “backers” initially.

We also just completed a remake of the Roger Corman classic Slumber Party Massacre for the Syfy channel. It comes out in October. We own 270 films from the Corman library and have remake rights, so we’re working on films and series born out of that fertile I.P. We have other films and shows in the works as well, and it will be a growing part of our business.

We’re highly focused on buying film and TV libraries. We’ve bought a handful over the years and are looking to do a lot more in that area. We have a number of large library film distribution deals in the works and we’ll be announcing several soon, and more as they close.

We’re doing bigger new film pre-buys and pick-ups. The recent Mark Duplass/Natalie Morales film Language Lessons is a good example. It’s getting excellent reviews and we’ve licensed it to a major streamer to start next year. We intend to continue to up our game in genre films, and in smart and quirky indie films as well.

We see opportunity in the international business. Our business is growing there and we’re having good success with Cannell library, our Corman films and other content that we control internationally. We see continuing to partner with strong independent companies in each territory, and eventually having our own staff, or investing in local companies locally to make sure that we really understand the nuances of each significant territory.

Tell us about the Shout! Factory backstory — starting with the name.

Foos: We had a really hard time coming up with a name. Every time we liked one we couldn’t get the URL, or it was already taken. We wanted something that sounded active, and a little retro. We were coming off of our success at Rhino Entertainment, which was mainly a retro music business, and we thought that we would be a music, film and TV company. Shout! felt classic and then there’s the Isley Brothers song that everyone loves. We were going to be Shout! Entertainment then we had trouble getting that trademarked. We were told to add something to it to distinguish it so we came up with Factory.

And now tell us the Garson Foos backstory.

Foos: I grew up in Los Angeles, and went to college at U.C. Berkeley. I was entrepreneurial early on and started several cafes in Oakland with a friend. I realized that the restaurant  business wasn’t for me, and thought that maybe I’d like the entertainment business. I had worked at the Rhino Record Store that my brother owned in high school, and he had started the Rhino label years later. He gave me a paid internship at the label and my timing was great. Rhino was starting to take off, and I was able to learn the business and move up the ranks as the company expanded. I eventually became the EVP of marketing and one of the key executives. Richard and his partner Harold Bronson sold the company to Warner Music Group in 2001, and Richard decided to leave in 2002 and start another company. He asked me and our other partner Bob Emmer, who had been our head of BA at Rhino and later became an EVP of BA at Warner Music, to join him in his new venture. We started Shout in 2003, and over the years Richard has stepped out of the day to day of the business, and Bob and I are co-CEOs.