Japan's 'Godzilla' studio enters 3D films

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A major Japanese studio known for its "Godzilla" monster films plans to enter the booming 3D movie business this year with an adaptation of a manga series, it said Tuesday.

Recent Hollywood three-dimensional hits "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland" have scored huge success in Japan, whose first major domestically produced 3D film will be released in September, top distributor Toho Co. Ltd., said.

Toho will distribute the third installment in the live-action "Umizaru" series about coast guards to more than 400 theatres across Japan, starting September 18.

"It will be the first 3D production of a major Japanese film," a Toho spokesman said. A team led by major network Fuji Television was in charge of production and Toho would distribute the movie, he added.

The company did not disclose the film's production cost but a marketing official said the decision to make it in 3D meant the initial budget had soared by 50 percent.

The second installment, which was released in 2006, was the biggest hit among Japanese live-action films of that year with box-office revenue of 7.1 billion yen (77 million dollars), according to Toho.

Umizaru literally means "sea monkey" in Japanese and is used in the story to refer to Coast Guard sea divers.

Toho studios produced 28 Godzilla films over half a century. The fictional monster made its screen debut in 1954 terrorising Tokyo and later spawned a Hollywood adaptation.