Avex taking a world tour

Japan music giant opens H.K. pix arm

Music giant Avex Entertainment is expanding its feature film activities outside its native Japan with the creation of Hong Kong-based movie development and production arm Avex Asia.

Shingle is headed by longtime Avex exec Buddy Marini, who founded the Intl. Digital Artists production and management label in 1997.

Avex Entertainment is part of the Avex Group Holdings, which has interests spanning talent management, concert promotion and events management.

New venture will be housed in Hong Kong offices belonging to Avex’s music operations. First hire is Esther Koo as head of development.

Koo was until this month distribution VP at Peter Chan Ho-sun’s Hong Kong-based production and distribution combine Applause Pictures. Before that she was general manager of Andy Lau’s Focus Films.

Avex Asia will involve itself in a broad spread of movies from across Asia, initially taking script development and production investment roles. Strategy is to expand into direct production of lower-budget movies and equity investment in upscale pics.

Koo will immediately start work on slate of projects and will attend this month’s Pusan Promotion Plan project mart.

Move follows last month’s acquisition of a 20% stake in Chinese talent agency Chengtian, for which Avex paid $36 million. Chengtian reps such top stars as Xia Yu (“The Painted Veil”) and Hu Jun (“Everlasting Regret”), as well as Hong Kong stars Tony Leung Ka-fai and Carina Lau.

Avex has been ramping up its movie activities within Japan. It invested in Japan-set actioner “Initial D” and upcoming Takeshi Kaneshiro-Tony Leung Chiu-wai two-hander “Confession of Pain,” both from Hong Kong’s Media Asia. Company also has coin in Movie Eye Entertainment’s “The Longest Night in Shanghai,” a rare Chinese-Japanese co-production, helmed by Zhang Yibai; it’s in post-production.

On the distribution front, Avex has acquired Japanese rights to an eclectic slate of pics including “The Grudge 2,” an English-language remake of the Japanese chiller from Mandate Pictures; Michel Gondry’s music-themed “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” from Focus Features; and erotic thriller “The Book of Revelation” from Contentfilm.

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