Yokota Shokai (film studio) (横田商会)

Yokota Shokai (founded in June 1903, consolidated in September 1921) is a Japanese film company once existed in Kyoto. It is one of the oldest film companies in Japan. It was the first company that had asked the "father of Japanese film," Shozo MAKINO to produce a film. The company name is recorded in the history of film as one of the four original companies of Nikkatsu Corporation.

Originate from Lumiere

Katsutaro INABATA, an alumnus of Lumiere, bought two pieces of 'cinematograph' from Auguste LUMIERE. On 15th February 1897, Inabata showed the first cinematograph at Nanchi Enbujo Theater (later Nangai Kaikan Theater). He entrusted cinematograph business in Kansai region to Einosuke TAKAGI (later Einosuke YOKOTA, hereinafter referred to as "Yokota"). Yokota once left the business. In 1900, Yokota visited the Paris World Exposition (1900) with Inabata and his brother Masunosuke YOKOTA, and brought back a cinematograph again to restart the business.

In June 1903, Yokota with his older brother started 'Yokota Kyodai Shokai' (Yokota Brothers Film Studio) in Kyoto, and later renamed 'Yokota Shokai.'
In the same month, he released a documentary film imported from France at 'Ebisudani-za Theater,' a playhouse in Shinkyogoku. In 1905, he opened a development factory in Shinsen-en Temple to start development in the company. In March 1907, he entered into special agreements with 'Kaku-za Theater' in Osaka ad 'Kinki-kan Theater' in Kanda, Tokyo to start to show films there. On 7th July of the same year, he opened 'Sennichimae Denkikan Theater' in Sennichimae, Osaka, which was the second theater specialized in film after Asakusa and the first in Kansai region.

Starting the Production of Drama Films

In June 1908, Shigekazu FUKUI, a cameraman of Yokota Shokai's documentary film "Kankokukan" (view of Korea), was appointed film director to produce the first drama film "Imori no kuroyaki" (burnt newt), which was released on 25th of the month. Futher, the company asked formerly mentioned Shozo MAKINO who managed 'Senbon-za Theater' which showed films in Kyoto. Makino accepted the offer to direct "Honnoji Kassen" (Battle of Honno-ji Temple), with Fukunosuke NAKAMURA and Ritoku ARASHI as the main casts and Makita OGAWA as a cameraman. The film was released at 'Kinki-kan Theater' in Kanda, etc. on September 17 of the same year. The company did not have a film studio yet.

In July 1910, the company opened the first film studio of its own at Seihokukado, Oshikoji-dori Street, Jogakko-dori Street, very close to Nijo-jo Castle, and named it 'Yokota Shokai Nijo-jo Studio.'
It was the fourth film studio in the history of Japanese film. In the same year Makino found Matsunosuke ONOE and selected him as the hero of "Goban Tadanobu Genji no Ishizue" (Goban Tadanobu, the foundation of Minamoto clan). The first Japanese movie star was born there.

In January 1912, 'Yokota Shokai Hokkedo Studio' with a glass stage was newly opened in Onmae-dori Street, Ichijo-dori Street Sagaru, and Nijo-jo Studio was closed after its function was transferred. In September of the same year, the company established 'Japan Moving Picture Co., Ltd.' (Nikkatsu) as a result of consolidation of four companies including Fukuhodo, Yoshizawa Shoten, and M. Pathe Company. Hokkedo Studio' was succeeded as 'Nikkatsu Kansai Studio' and Yokota later became chairman of Nikkatsu.