GEG starts global $100m film fund


UPDATED 1:21 p.m. PT, March 28, 2008

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong-based entertainment firm Global Entertainment Group is launching a $100 million film fund to finance film projects worldwide, chairman and CEO Johnny Hon and COO Rukpong Tupprasoot have told The Hollywood Reporter.

"We are trying to make movies that will bridge the gap between Asia and Hollywood," Hon said of the fund.

Apparently, the first American company the new fund is talking to is Bill Block-led film financier QED International, though no specific projects have been identified.

Among the projects GEG is looking at are those that are tailor-made for the Chinese market. "We know a lot of investors from Europe and movie people in China and Asia," Hon said. "We hope to all work together."

Established in 2005 by venture capitalists Hon and Tupprasoot, GEG relocated its headquarters from London to Hong Kong in 2006, with offices now in London, Beijing and Shanghai. The company started its content production division with the Chinese film "Protege" (2007) and TV dramas such as the Nicholas Tse series "Da Ren Wu" (2008). The film production division also strives for projects that will attract both Western and Asian audiences.

The pair hopes that will be the case with its fourth and latest feature, "The Coffin," an English-language horror film directed by Thailand's Ekachai Uekrongtham ("Beautiful Boxer"). GEG plans a Cannes launch for the film.

In addition to film financing and content production, GEG is planning to roll out a chain of cinemas named GEG Cinema Group in China, targeting the growing middle class in second- and third-tier cities.

"We see a major demand in cinemas in China," Hon said. "The boxoffice has grown almost 30% in the last few years. It is estimated that, by the year 2019, there will be more middle class people in China than in the U.S. But there are only about 2,000 screens in China, as opposed to about 50,000 in America. With almost five times the population of the U.S. in China, Hon and Tupprasoot see a major business opportunity in film exhibition in China, particularly in cities with 2 million-3 million people."

"As the incomes of the population in those cities begin to grow, we want to capture that audience as well," Tupprasoot said.

The company has identified nine sites in for cineplexes in China. Theaters in the Harbin, Nejing and Sichuan provinces will open in May. Each theater, costing up to HK$8 million ($1.3 million), will have five to 10 screens.

"We want to be a major player, so in the first 12 months, we hope to open 100 screens," Hon said.

The company also has launched an artist management division that has signed 30 multilingual Chinese actors and actresses, although the duo declined to name them.

"A lot of our talent were born in Hong Kong but grew up in the West," Hon said. "By linking up with Hollywood, we are hoping to promote this new generation of talents to the movie-making business there."