@Toho Co. Ltd
Japanese studio Toho will pay $225 million to acquire a 25% stake in the U.S.-based indie film and television producer-distributor, Fifth Season. The investment from the producer of the current hit box office kaiju movie, Godzilla Minus One, is being made through Toho’s U.S. subsidiary, Toho International, Deadline is reporting.
In the midst of the deal, Korea’s entertainment company, CJ ENM, will remain the majority shareholder in Fifth Season, which was previously known as Endeavor Content. CJ ENM acquired 80% of Fifth Season’s shares in January 2022. Endeavor Group Holdings will continue to serve as a strategic shareholder in the latter company. Following completion of the deal, Fifth Season will have a valuation of $900 million.
CJ ENM and Fifth Season will work with Toho to both produce global content and participate in content produced in Japan. Toho’s development and production executives will also work with Fifth Season. Production and creative efforts that result from these collaborations will access Fifth Season’s global distribution network.
Previously, CJ ENM completed its deal to buy a controlling stake in Endeavor Content in January 2022. It paid $875 million for an 80% holding. The business rebranded as Fifth Season in September that year.
Fifth Season declined to respond to inquires about the new share of the company’s shareholdings after the transaction. However, it is believed that the deal will lead to a dilution for the current shareholders.
Fifth Season Co-CEOs Graham Taylor and Chris Rice have publicly stated that the investment would empower the company to continue expanding its slate of premium content. It will also create opportunities for collaboration between Fifth Season, Toho and CJ ENM.
Specifically, Fifth Season will work with Toho and CJ ENM to both produce global content and participate in content produced in Japan. Toho’s development and production executives will also team with Fifth Season. The company’s robust global distribution network is expected to help promote the content that’s produced through these collaborations.
Fifth Season TV has worked on such television productions as Apple TV+’s Severance, directed and produced by Ben Stiller, and Max’s Tokyo Vice. Other series include Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers, starring Nicole Kidman, and Life & Beth, starring Amy Schumer. The latter three shows are currently in production on their second season.
Fifth Season TV is also working on such new series as Chief of War starring Jason Momoa; Lady in the Lake, helmed by Alma Har’el and starring Natalie Portman; and The Savant, starring Jessica Chastain. The company is also handling distribution for a library of series produced by third party companies.
On the film side, Fifth Season’s current line-up includes Eileen, directed by William Oldroyd and starring Thomasin McKenzie and Anne Hathaway, which is now playing in theaters. Upcoming movies include Nonnas from helmer Stephen Chobsky and Anniversary from writer-director Jan Komasa.
In addition to production, Toho is a major distributor in Japan of both local and foreign movies. It’s also an exhibitor with 740 screens and a 30% market share.
While discussing Toho’s acquisition of Fifth Season, Taylor and Rice said: “This investment is an excellent and unique opportunity to build on Fifth Season’s momentum and solidify our leadership in the global independent film and television space. Strategic partnerships are a core piece of our DNA, and we were deliberate in moving forward with a company as successful, storied, and aligned with our goals and values as Toho. With their collaboration, alongside that of the great partnerships with CJ ENM and Endeavor, Fifth Season is positioned better than ever to delight audiences around the world with an expansive slate of top-quality content.”
Toho President Hiro Matsuoka also commented on the investment, saying: “We believe that this collaboration will be a significant step towards challenging the global market, not only in the field of animation where Toho has excelled, but also in the realm of live-action content. We are extremely grateful and excited to take on this challenge hand in hand with CJ ENM, which has been advancing into the global entertainment market from Asia, and Endeavor, a global sports and entertainment company. Crossing the ‘bridge’ between Japan and the world that will be built through this collaboration, we hope to see Japanese projects, intellectual properties, and content expand further into the global market.”
Koo Chang-gun, CEO of CJ ENM, also chimed in on the acquisition: “We are thrilled to have Toho, the biggest entertainment company in Japan, as our partner at this time when Fifth Season is making significant strides as a global major studio. CJ ENM will continue to strengthen its competitive advantage as a content producer and bolster its status as a global IP powerhouse.”
Fifth Season was advised on the transaction by The Raine Group. The latter acted as exclusive financial advisor, and O’Melveny served as the legal advisor.