Bill Ireton, President and Representative Director of Warner Entertainment Japan is to step down from his post in March. Ireton has been with Warner Bros for 26 years and has been instrumental in its Japanese operations, including several successful local-language films. Millard Ochs will take over as head of the studio’s Japanese business and will begin working with Ireton in December.
This year will be Warner Entertainment Japan’s most profitable since 2009. While box office in Japan for imports has dropped somewhat over the past few years, local movies are riding high. Warner produced late-2014 box office hits Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno and Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends, which together are expected to gross nearly $90M.
Along with the Rurouni movies, Ireton shepherded such films as 2010’s Saigo No Chushingura, 2011’s Paradise Kiss, 2013’s The Straw Shield and Yurusarezarumono, and this year’s Kurohitsuji. Initially, Ireton established a successful acquisition and investment strategy that began with China’s Hero in 2002 and House Of Flying Daggers in 2004, and continued with Korea’s Windstruck and the Death Note movies from Japan.
Richard Fox, Warner’s EVP International, said today, “Japan is an incredibly important global market and much of Warner Bros’ success there is directly attributable to Bill. He has been a terrific colleague throughout his tenure with the company, and, as Country Manager the last eight years, he has helped grow our local film production along with our standing and reputation in the Japanese entertainment business.”
Ireton said, “I’ve had a really wonderful career at Warner Entertainment Japan, helping to shape and grow the entertainment industry in Japan while making a number of lifelong friends and colleagues along the way. I’m proud to be leaving on a high note and know the company is in good hands and will continue to flourish.”
Ireton served as President and Representative Director, Warner Entertainment Japan since 2006 with broad oversight of all Warner businesses in Japan, including theatrical production and distribution, television distribution, home entertainment, consumer products and video games.
Prior to that, he was Managing Director, Warner Bros Pictures Japan, a role in which he joined the company in 1988, where he was instrumental in the distribution of such key releases as the Matrix trilogy, the Harry Potter films, The Last Samurai (U.S. box office $111M, Japanese box office $128M) and Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima (U.S. box office $13.7M, Japanese box office $43M).
Ochs, who served as President, Warner Bros International Cinemas, from 1994 until his retirement in 2013 when Warner Bros exited the overseas cineplex business, will serve as the head of Warner Entertainment Japan upon Ireton’s departure.