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Entertainment behind the scenes

Comic book movie producer is big on Japanese manga

May 1, 2010

Hollywood producer Avi Arad has put down his stack of comic books and turned to flipping through mangas, the Japanese version of the comic — and he likes what he sees.Avi Arad

Arad, who helped popularize comic book movies with “X-Men” and “Spider-Man,” sees stories from Japan as driving another wave of major studio films. The Israeli-born Arad has a vested interest in being big on Japan, because the toymaker turned movie producer with comic book house Marvel Entertainment hopes one of those hot Japanese stories will be the manga “Ghost in the Shell,” a futuristic police thriller which he plans to make into a film with DreamWorks Studios. The heroine in “Ghost in the Shell” has been described by one reviewer as a “cross between the Terminator and a Playboy centerfold.”

No release date has been set for Arad’s “Ghost in the Shell” movie. But there are reasons to take Arad seriously. When he was at Marvel, he executive produced the 2000 hit comic book movie “X-Men,” which made $296 million at worldwide box offices and helped spark a wave of similar films. His other credits include “Hulk,” “Daredevil,” “Spider-Man” and several other supMangaerhero films.

“We look at Japan as an incredible new source of material,” Arad said this week at a panel discussion in Beverly Hills organized by think tank the Milken Institute.

Arad said that for U.S. film producers, exporting intellectual property from Japan is a “huge business” but that closing film rights deals with Japanese publishing houses is “still a challenge.”

“We understand them, I think, but they’re trying to understand us, in a good way,” he said.  Still, Arad said that media content in Japan is viewed as an industry “as important as cars” and that the country has plenty of top-notch writers.

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