TOKYO -- Orix is preparing to launch a licensing and distribution business for Japanese films next month in China, which is on the verge of becoming the world's largest cinema market.
The Japanese leasing company plans to establish a joint venture with Chinese partners, Nikkei has learned. Orix will take a 45% stake in the business, which will be founded in Hong Kong and become an Orix equity-method affiliate. Phoenix Entertainment Group, a major Beijing-based distributor of Japanese films in China, and others will own the rest.
The value of Orix's interest is not known.
Orix plans to purchase the rights to export Japanese titles to the Chinese market, and commission their distribution in China to local distributors including Phoenix. The plan is to export five to 10 titles in the first year, targeting box office receipts of 10 billion yen ($91 million).
Orix is already negotiating a deal for the Chinese distribution rights to the upcoming animated film "Stand by Me Doraemon 2," which is scheduled to hit screens in Japan next summer.
China is expected to surpass the U.S. as the biggest movie theater market in 2020, with ticket sales hitting about $11.4 billion, according to a Japanese trade ministry projection.
The joint venture's earnings will be driven by the licensing fees.
Orix has experience referring Chinese companies seeking local distribution rights to Japanese content owners. The first title screened in China through its mediation was 2015's "Stand by Me Doraemon," which was also the first new Japanese movie to be shown there in about three years. It earned 530 million yuan ($75.6 million), a record for a Japanese film at the time.