MOTHRA Night at Sony Studios
Author: Keith Aiken
Special Thanks to Kai Saari
On the evening of Thursday, November 19th, the Japan Film Society and Sony Pictures Entertainment hosted a special premiere screening of the fully restored Toho sci-fi classic MOTHRA (Mosura, 1961). The invitation-only event was held in the Jimmy Stuart Building on the Sony Studios lot in Culver City for members of the press and Japanese Entertainment Industry in Southern California.
Sony’s connection to MOTHRA dates back to 1961 when Columbia Pictures— now a subsidiary of Sony— helped finance the movie’s production and later distributed it theatrically, to television, and on home video in the United States. For their recent ICONS OF SCI-FI: TOHO COLLECTION DVD set, Sony undertook an extensive restoration of both the Japanese and American versions of MOTHRA, supervised by Michael Friend, the former director of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences film archive who now works for Sony Pictures Entertainment in Asset Management and Film Restoration and also teaches at UCLA.
The MOTHRA screening was spearheaded by Kai Saari, Coordinator for Digital Media for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) as well as Marketing Director for the newly formed Japan Film Society. Also involved were several key personnel from JFS, including Programming Director Aki Mizuno, PR Director Ryoko Leung, Financial Director Hayato Mitsuishi, Operations Director Yuri Suzuki, Executive Director Kevin Leung, and photographer Yasunari Akita.
In addition to Michael Friend (who ran the projector for the screening), Sony attendees included Grover Crisp, Sony’s VP of Asset Management and Film Restoration, and Diane Avila and Heather Olson of SPHE. One familiar face was Michael Schlesinger, now a consultant for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Michael is well known to Godzilla fans as the producer/director of the Americanized version of GODZILLA 2000, and for his work on several Toho projects for Sony Repertory and SPHE.
Among the guests were Yoshiko Fukuda of Toho’s LA office, Hideo Iwamoto and Tomohiro Hayashi from Nikkatsu, and Hiroshi Furusawa of the Japan Consulate. Well known Japanese actress Yoko Sugi (DRUNKEN ANGEL), director Justin Ambrosino (THE 8TH SAMURAI), and director Ken Ochiai (HALF KENNETH) were in attendance, as were SciFi Japan’s Steve Ryfle and Oki Miyano, both of whom contributed to ICONS OF SCI-FI: TOHO COLLECTION.
The guest list also included reps from a number of companies and organizations: Robert Brasch, Douglas Erber, and Kay Amano of the Japan America Society; Chase Wang and Masashi Negadoi from Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE); Emily Ohno, General Manager of JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization); Eric Calderon, CEO of Wild Boar Media (AFRO SAMURAI); Mike Kiley and Steven Calcote of Tokyopop; Helen Ota from the Nisei Week Foundation; Ayano Fujita, General Manager of the subtitling company Japan Visualmedia Translation Academy; Josh Partridge of Arsenal Pictures; Etsuko Ogawa from Japan America Media Association; Hiromi Ishimaru and Satomi Imai from JAMA (Japan America Media Association); Jonathan Aubry from Regent Releasing; Kana Aida, Yui Kashiwagi, and Shun Ohara from Eleven Arts; and Keishi Ishida from UCLA.
Representing the press were journalists Tomoko Ishibashi, Kiyoshi Suzuki, and Atsuko Kohata from Variety Japan; Ian Ono of examiner.com; Jana J. Monji from Pasadena Weekly; Mikey Hirano Culross from The Rafu Shimpo; Shige Higashi, Publisher of Cultural News; Sunada Hirotaka, Bureau Chief for Kyodo News; and Toshimasa Tomiyama, General Manager of Japanese Daily Sun.
Special guests for the event were the family of the late actor Jerry Ito, best known as the villainous kidnapper Clark Nelson in MOTHRA. Three generations of the Ito family attended the screening, among them Jerry’s widow Sakae, his daughter Michele, and several grandchildren.
The evening started at 7:00pm with a reception, giving guests the opportunity to mingle and enjoy some refreshments. Some of the Sony crew discussed doing new, widescreen, dual-language DVDs for a handful of Toho movies Sony holds rights to such as the Heisei Godzilla films, the REBIRTH OF MOTHRA trilogy, and GODZILLA 2000. Casual conversation at a party is a long way from an official announcement, but it’s good to know that Sony is at least considering the possibility of upgraded DVDs.
MOTHRA started at 8:00pm and was a hit with attendees (many of whom had never seen the film before). The HD projection was lear and crisp, the audience applauded and laughed in all the right spots, and those who read Japanese clapped at the onscreen credits for Jerry Ito, FX director Eiji Tsuburaya, and director Ishiro Honda. It was a great time, and hopefully just the first of many such events from Sony and JFS.
About Sony Picture Entertainment
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America (SCA), a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution; television production and distribution; digital content creation and distribution; worldwide channel investments; home entertainment acquisition and distribution, operation of studio facilities; development of new entertainment products, services and technologies; and distribution of filmed entertainment in more than 130 countries. Sony Pictures can be found on the World Wide Web at sonypictures.com
About the Japan Film Society
The Japan Film Society (JFS) is a non-profit 501 3(c) organization founded to support the art of Japanese film and broaden its exposure among audiences in the US. It is an all-volunteer network of artists, business people, and film lovers who seek out Japanese films from every genre, as well as provide opportunities to showcase the work of Japanese, Japanese American and Japanese-inspired filmmakers. japanfilmsociety.org
For more information on the ICONS OF SCI-FI: TOHO COLLECTION please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:
- ICONS OF SCI-FI: TOHO COLLECTION
- Sneak Peek: Sony’s ICONS OF SCI-FI: TOHO COLLECTION
- MOTHRA’S DIGITAL MAKEOVER
- ICONS OF SCI-FI: TOHO COLLECTION Film Clips
- Covering the Toho Icons: An Interview with Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle