For all the hand-wringing amongst J-film fans over the recent 3D conversion of Kinji Fukasaku’s smash hit 2000 film Battle Royale for its 10th anniversary, there was always one silver lining from a business angle—it gave distributor Toei a perfectly valid excuse to showcase one of their most successful films ever for international buyers.
Unsurprisingly, the revamped film got plenty of bites at this year’s American Film Market, drawing the attention of over 50 distributors from 13 countries. Most notably, a US distributor bought up the American rights to the film. Editor’s note (11/14): At Toei’s request, I’ve removed the name of the mentioned distributor from this article. It’s not officially announced yet and several Japanese news outlets got the name from a third party that may not be accurate.
This is a long time coming; Battle Royale was never picked up for North American distribution when it was first up for grabs nearly a decade ago. Although interest in Japanese films was surging upward at the time due to the cult success of the J-horror wave, there was simply no appetite for a movie about high school gun violence that soon after the Columbine massacre (see comments for dissenting opinion on this).
Parental groups and politicians misguidedly pegged the events of Columbine on everything from the 1993 video game Doom to the 1994 movie “Natural Born Killers”, but times have changed pretty drastically since then. With national attention focused squarely on the economy and every teenager in America now busy headshotting Viet Cong in Call of Duty: Black Ops, there’s very little backlash against violent entertainment as of late.
Fukasaku died very early on in the filming of the 2003 film “Battle Royale II”, but his son Kenta took over the direction and had a big hand in the 3D adaptation of his father’s work as well as its subsequent promotion. According to Kenta Fukasaku, having the film shown in America finally fulfills a genuine wish of his father after a 10-year delay, and will give many more people the opportunity to watch it.
Somewhat less importantly, Toei claims the sale marks their biggest financial deal for a film in the US to date.
“Battle Royale 3D” will be released in Japan on November 20, 2010. There are plans to release it in the US sometime in 2011, though details are not yet finalized. 3D-haters and film purists shouldn’t fret though; the company in question also picked up the rights for the original non-3D version and its widely-panned sequel, so it’s probably safe to expect a packaged, multi-version release of some sort. Stay Tuned.