EXCLUSIVE: Sony has made a key offshore hire, appointing William (Bill) Ireton as Head of Local Production Japan, Sony Pictures International Productions. Ireton is a respected industry veteran who is a former President and CEO of Warner Entertainment Japan.
Japan is the No. 3 theatrical market with almost half of the box office generated by local titles. Laine Kline, Head of Sony Pictures International Productions, calls it “a major priority for our group. Sanford [Panitch, President of Columbia Pictures] and I could not be more excited to have Bill build our local production team in Japan bringing his vast experience and strong relationships in the Japanese filmmaking community.”
Ireton spent much of his career with Warner Bros Japan, working with the group for 26 years. He was appointed President and CEO of Warner Entertainment Japan in 2006 and had broad oversight of the studio’s businesses there, including theatrical production, marketing and distribution, television distribution, home entertainment including digital distribution, consumer products and video games.
Ireton launched WB’s local Japanese production operation and oversaw 49 Japanese titles during the seven years he ran local production for the studio. Throughout his tenure, films he oversaw include the successful Rurouni Kenshin trilogy, which grossed over $100M in Japan, as well as local hits like Paradise Kiss, The Last Chushingura, The Straw Shield and Kuroshitsuji. Ireton was also instrumental in the Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, starring Ken Watanabe.
Prior to that, he was Managing Director, Warner Bros Pictures Japan, where he was key to the marketing and distribution of such important releases as the Matrix trilogy ($250M Japan gross), A.I. Artificial Intelligence ($96M), the Harry Potter movies ($1B), The Last Samurai ($130M) and Letters From Iwo Jima ($52M).
Ireton’s career in the entertainment industry began with Toho-Towa where he distributed imports for the Japanese studio, and later with Movie/TV Marketing, an international trade journal. Most recently, he was associated with Ireton Entertainment Inc, Yoshimoto Kogyo, Star Channel Japan and Sansei Technologies.
“I am honored to be given this opportunity by Sony Pictures to grow the local language production business in Japan,” said Ireton. “By working with producers and filmmakers in bringing their vision to the screen, I look forward to contributing to Sony’s reputation for quality moviemaking.”
Sony Pictures International Productions is the local-language production arm of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group and has a strong and growing track-record in the important sector.