'Battle Royale' DVD gets boost from 'The Hunger Games'
"Battle Royale," a Japanese movie released in 2000 based on a novel of the same name by author Koushun Takami, premiered on DVD in the United States and Canada this week by Anchor Bay Entertainment, a small home entertainment company owned by Starz Media.
Like "The Hunger Games," "Battle Royale" features teenagers forced by an oppressive government to fight to the death. The Japanese movie is more violent, however, which has inspired some controversy.
Kevin Kasha, Anchor Bay executive vice president of acquisitions, said he has been a fan of the film for more than a decade and had considered buying it when he worked in the home entertainment units of Miramax Films and New Line Cinema.
But political considerations at the time made that difficult, though Anchor Bay has a thriving horror business into which "Battle Royale" could have easily fit.
He acquired domestic rights to the film from Japanese studio Toei Co. in 2010 but decided to wait until "The Hunger Games" came to theaters before releasing the Japanese film.
The four-disc complete collection has been marketed to fans who already know "Battle Royale" and may have seen bootleg copies. Single-disc DVDs and Blu-ray discs that are sold in Wal-mart and other stores feature an image, featuring two teens holding a sword and scythe, that was designed to echo early promotional art for "The Hunger Games," according to Kevin Carney, Anchor Bay executive director of marketing.
"There's a core fan base that has been looking for this movie, and that's who we're targeting with the boxed set," Kasha said. "But with 'Hunger Games' coming out, there's also a whole new market full of people who probably didn't know 'Battle Royale' existed."
Kasha declined to discuss sales figures, but the Blu-ray complete collection is currently No. 38 on Amazon.com's movies and TV sales chart.
And while Anchor Bay bought "Battle Royale" for DVD and digital platforms, it has also found a niche in theaters. The movie has played at midnight screenings in 19 theaters so far, with eight more scheduled in coming months.
"We think of that more as promotion for the DVD," Carney said. "But given the fact that there are so many, I'll take every dollar."
-- Ben Fritz
Photo: A scene from "Battle Royale." Credit: Anchor Bay Entertainment