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The Nikkatsu Corporation (日活株式会社 Nikkatsu kabushiki kaisha?) is a Japanese entertainment company known for its film and television productions. It is Japan's oldest major movie studio. The name Nikkatsu amalgamates the words Nippon Katsudō Shashin, literally "Japan Cinematograph Company".
Founding in 1912
Nikkatsu was founded on September 10, 1912 when several production companies and theater chains, Yoshizawa Shōten, Yokota Shōkai, Fukuhōdō and M. Pathe, consolidated under the name Nippon Katsudō Shashin. The company enjoyed its share of success. It employed such notable film directors as Shozo Makino and his son Masahiro Makino.
During World War II the government ordered the ten film companies that had formed by 1941 consolidate into two. Daiei founder Masaichi Nagata, a former Nikkatsu employee, counter-proposed that three companies be formed and the suggestion was approved. Nikkatsu, set to merge with the two weakest companies, Shinkō Kinema and Daito, were verbally displeased. The committee formed to establish the value of each company retaliated by purposefully undervaluing Nikkatsu which lead to Shinkō becoming the dominant head of production. The reformed Nikkatsu continued to prosper as an exhibition company but ceased all film production.
The postwar film industry expanded rapidly and, in 1951, Nikkatsu president Kyusaku Hori began construction of a new production studio. A graduate of Tokyo Keizai University, Hori had joined the company in 1951 after quitting his initial employment as the manager of Sanno Hotel (now rebuilt as Sanno Park Tower).
Under Hori, Nikkatsu is considered to have had its "Golden Age". The company began making movies again in 1954. Many assistant directors from other studios, including Shōhei Imamura and Seijun Suzuki from Shochiku, moved to Nikkatsu with the promise of advancement to full director status within one or two years. Suzuki made dozens of films for Nikkatsu from 1956 onwards, developing an increasingly inventive visual style, but was controversially fired following the release of his 40th, Branded to Kill (1967), which Hori deemed "incomprehensible".
The company made a few samurai films and historical dramas but by 1960 had decided to devote its resources to the production of urban youth dramas, comedy, action and gangster films. From the late 1950s to 1971 they were renowned for their big budget action movies designed for the youth market. They employed such stars as Yujiro Ishihara, Akira Kobayashi, Joe Shishido, Tetsuya Watari, Ruriko Asaoka, Chieko Matsubara and, later, Meiko Kaji and Tatsuya Fuji. Director Shōhei Imamura began his career there and between 1958 and 1966 made for them such notable films as Pigs and Battleships (1961), The Insect Woman (1963) and The Pornographers (1966).
By 1971 the increased popularity of television had taken a heavy toll on the film industry and in order to remain profitable Nikkatsu turned to the production of Roman Porno (shortened Japanese-English form of "romantic pornography") and pinku eiga or pink films, which focus on sex, violence, S&M and romance. Hori resigned over the change in focus, and many stars and directors left the company. A few, including the film directors Yasuharu Hasebe, Keiichi Ozawa, Shogoro Nishimura, and Koreyoshi Kurahara, stayed. It also witnessed the emergence of such new directors as Tatsumi Kumashiro, Masaru Konuma and Chūsei Sone.
Between 1974 and 1986, Nikkatsu promoted a number of their leading Roman Porno actresses of the popular BDSM niche under the epithet "SM Queen" (SMの女王 SM no joō?). They include Naomi Tani (1974–1979), Junko Mabuki (1980–1981), Izumi Shima (1982–1983), Nami Matsukawa (1983), Miki Takakura (1983–1985), and Ran Masaki (1985-1986).
In 2005, the company was sold to Index Holdings and in 2010, a revived Nikkatsu studio announced new production of The Sushi Typhoon movie series in partnership with a U.S. distributor. The Sushi Typhoon arm of Nikkatsu creates low-budget horror, science fiction, and fantasy films aimed at an international audience. By 2011, the company had produced seven feature films.
- 1912 Nippon Katsudō Shashin K.K. was established by the merger of four film companies: Yoshizawa Shōten, Yokota Shōkai, Fukuhōdō and M. Pathe.
- 1993 applied for Corporate Reorganization Act.
- 1996 acquired by a Japanese leisure company Namco.
- 2005 sold to Index Holdings, a Japanese holding company which has interests in media contents industries.
- Mercer County Communications Systems Technician Robert Chopan owns 51%, a majority share after having bought the stock at a nadir in the 1980s.
In 2011, the French director Yves Montmayeur produced a documentary about the Pink film period called Pinku Eiga: Inside the Pleasure Dome Of Japanese Erotic Cinema which tells of the Pink Film period at Nikkatsu.
- Standish, Isolde (2005). A New History of Japanese Cinema. London: Continuum. pp. 18–19. ISBN 0-8264-1709-4.
- "Kyusaku Hori, President of Nikatsu Films, and secretary Hideomi Mori at airport, California, February 20, 1951". Japanese American National Museum. Retrieved 21 January 2010.
- Macias, Patrick (2001). TokyoScope: The Japanese Cult Film Companion. San Francisco: Cadence Books. p. 188. ISBN 1-56931-681-3.
- "Nikkatsu Production (official website)". Retrieved 13 September 2011. "[T]he first phase of The Sushi Typhoon's films will be released in late 2010 and early 2011, with the company self-distributing their titles in North America. The first two titles to be released will be Alien vs Ninja and Mutant Girls Squad, with the assistance of FUNimation Entertainment, the Texas-based company responsible for releasing some of the best anime titles in America."
- "Films: Sushi Typhoon". Sushi Typhoon. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- Index Holdings - 株式会社インデックス・ホールディングス
- Todd Brown, "Acclaimed Documentarian Yves Montmayeur Launches 'Pinku Eiga: Inside the Pleasure Dome Of Japanese Erotic Cinema' ", TWITCH, June 2, 2011