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Tokyo Laboratory Ceases Operations After 68 Years Amidst Technological Shifts

Iconic Tokyo Laboratory shuts down after 68 years due to digitalization; film originals' fate uncertain
t 9602.TSE Entertainment 100 Mid and Small Cap 2000
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Tokyo Laboratory Co., Ltd., a distinguished film entity within the Toho Group since its inception in 1955, officially ceased operations on November 30, 2023. The company, renowned for its enduring 68-year history, cited significant transformations in video technology as the driving force behind the decision. With the near extinction of traditional film development, the company had attempted to pivot towards digital data (DCP) production and editing for theatrical screenings, post-production, and color adjustment (DI) through digital imagery. However, challenges arose within the Toho Group, leading to a strategic reorganization involving the closure or transfer of several business segments.

The cessation of DCP production on March 31, 2023, marked the beginning of the end. Video DI and editing businesses followed suit, being transferred to TOHO Studio starting December 1st. Notably, the fate of approximately 20,000 entrusted film plates garnered attention. Despite initial plans for customer returns, complications arose with numerous cases where the process stalled or rights holders remained unidentified. Concerns were raised about potential cultural asset losses if items couldn’t be returned, leading to discussions of destruction.

In a pivotal November 30th announcement, it was revealed that TOHO Archive, another entity within the Toho Group, took charge of film originals whose rights holders were unconfirmed. This move, part of a broader video digital archive project, hinted at the preservation of the original versions. However, the plight of unidentified rights holders poses a lingering challenge, potentially hindering the practical use of these preserved materials.

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