The Weinstein Company (TWC), the multi- media enterprise launched by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, today announced the launch of an innovative $285 million fund that will fully finance the development, production, acquisition, marketing and distribution of a large slate of Asian themed films over the next six years. Worldwide distribution for all films under the deal will be controlled by The Weinstein Company and will include DVD distribution in the United States under TWC’s agreement with Genius Products. The announcement was made today by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, co-chairmen of TWC.
The fund will include a diverse mix of theatrical and direct-to-video titles, which will mostly be filmed in Asia and will explore the region’s unique culture and showcase the talents of leading Asian filmmakers. TWC anticipates producing or acquiring a total of 21 theatrical titles and 10 direct-to-video titles during the term for the fund.
The fund, structured and placed by Goldman, Sachs & Co., will provide up to $285 million in capital for the development, production, acquisition, marketing and distribution for all qualifying Asian-themed films produced or acquired by TWC over the next 6 years. The fund will be capitalized with senior debt financing, mezzanine financing and equity financing. A consortium of banks led and co-arranged by Comerica Bank will provide the senior debt financing. Continental Entertainment Capital and Israel Discount Bank of New York (IDB Bank®) are also participating in the senior debt facility. The mezzanine and equity financing will be provided by Citigroup Global Markets Inc. and PMA Capital Management Limited on behalf of investment funds it manages, among others. TWC will also be an equity investor in the fund. The fund will finance 100% of both production or acquisition costs and prints and advertising (P&A) costs.
Some of the titles that will be included in the fund include a live action version of Mulan, which depicts the epic journey of the Chinese legend Hua Mulan; The Seven Samurai, a contemporary remake of the 1956 Academy Awards® nominated story about a poor village besieged by marauding bandits and defended by seven samurai; the action epic Shanghai about an American who returns to Japanese occupied Shanghai during the Second World War to discover his friend’s death and tries to unravel the mysteries behind it; an untitled Tony Jaa project; TWC’s recently announced deal with “24” producer Tony Krantz and Infernal Affairs co-director Andrew Lau for a trio of Hong Kong action films, to be shot in English; and Forbidden Kingdom which marks the first-ever onscreen pairing of martial arts superstars Jackie Chan and Jet Li and is directed by Rob Minkoff. TWC is co-releasing Forbidden Kingdom with Lionsgate in the US, UK, Spain, France and Latin America.
For more than 25 years, Bob and Harvey Weinstein have been at the forefront of bringing Asian cinema to the worldwide film marketplace and have released four of the top eight all-time grossing Asian foreign language films in North America including Hero, Iron Monkey, The Protector, and Shall We Dance? During that time, the popularity of Asian films has grown tremendously and Asian films have emerged as a significant force around the globe. Two important elements which have fueled this growth are the existence of large markets in various Asian countries for Asian films, which enables increased local investment in such films, and a production cost structure in Asia that is significantly lower than that for U.S. or European produced films, permitting Asian films to feature enhanced production values at comparatively lower budgets. TWC intends to focus on utilizing these advantages to deliver Asian films that offer significant production value with a Western sensibility, and are therefore aimed both at performing well in the Asian territories of their origin and appealing to Western audiences.
The Weinstein Company, which already has an office in Hong Kong, plans to ramp up its Asian business and increase its profile in Asia. The company has recently hired experienced Asian film executive David Lee as executive vice president of Asian Operations to oversee the creative aspects of the Asian Film Fund. Lee has vast experience in the production of Asian themed film and extensive relationships in Asia among the business and entertainment communities. Lee will report to co-president of production Michael Cole and Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Prior to joining the Weinstein Company, Lee advised some of the most influential media companies in Asia in various capacities. He played a key role in structuring Forbidden Kingdom as one of the highest profile official U.S. and co-productions to date.
In 2006, TWC created a new label called Dragon Dynasty, which showcases cutting-edge presentations of significant classic and contemporary Asian Cinema for the home entertainment market. Combining elevated production values with dynamic creative execution, each Dragon Dynasty product extends a compelling invitation to experience the world’s most exciting action genre like never before. Dragon Dynasty feature legendary Asian filmmakers such as John Woo, Yuen Woo-ping and Corey Yuen Kwai and star some of Asia’s hottest leading actors like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Stephen Chow, Donnie Yen, Michelle Yeoh and Sammo Hung. Through its agreement with TWC, Genius Products will distribute the Asian genre titles in the fund on home entertainment under TWC’s Dragon Dynasty label.
“Bob and I are thrilled to share the immense talent and beautiful stories of Asian cinema with audiences around the world. We have been planning to launch an Asian Film Fund and increase our Asian film business since the early planning stages of The Weinstein Company and are really excited to be able to start working on all the exciting projects we have planned. The film world has become increasingly global and through this fund, we will be able to work on daring projects with the region’s most creative filmmakers and movie stars and partner with some of Asia’s most dynamic talent – both behind and in front of the camera.”
A team of investors will manage the fund, with TWC serving as the Managing Member with authority over all film-related activities including development, creative, marketing, and distribution.
Goldman, Sachs & Co. acted as exclusive placement agent for the Asia Film Fund transaction. Goldman, Sachs & Co. acted as exclusive arranger for the issuance of mezzanine debt and equity, and Comerica and Goldman, Sachs & Co. acted as joint lead arrangers and joint lead bookrunners on the senior debt financing.
The agreement was orchestrated by Larry Madden, executive vice president and CFO, and Andy Kim, senior vice president of finance and business development, at TWC. The law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP served as TWC’s outside counsel on the deal. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP advised Goldman Sachs and Liner Yankelevitz Sunshine & Regenstreif LLP advised Comerica.