As reported by ICv2 ('Akira Gets Facelift'), Pioneer is spending over $1 million to digitally re-master the anime classic Akira and plans to provide the restored film with a theatrical release. Now we've learned that Warner Brothers has registered the domain name 'Akiramovie.com.' The studio registered the name last Dec. 11th and has full rights to it for two years. The site is not currently on line, but it is doubtful that Warner was in domain-squatting mode when the studio registered the name, so the clear inference is that the studio will be distributing Akira theatrically.
What will it mean if Warner Brothers does indeed distribute Akira theatrically? Most importantly, it would mean much wider and more effective theatrical distribution than ICv2 indicated in our original article on the Akira restoration. Since this is a revival (Akira was first released in 1988) rather than a new film, 'arthouses' are the most likely venues for the action-packed anime; but if Warner does distribute it, Akira could wind up making it into all the major markets and lots of college towns across the country. Influential critic Roger Ebert (Ebert & Roeper At the Movies) is a big Akira fan, and it is very likely that he will give the restored film some national publicity on his popular syndicated television show. With its excellent staff of publicists Warner should be able to get the critically acclaimed Akira reviewed in a wider variety of media -- which could go a long way toward getting this groundbreaking film the audience it deserves. To a critic who has just stumbled bleary-eyed out of a screening of Pokemon 3, Akira will provide a glimpse of the true potential of Japanese animation.