Gaga gaga for additional capital

Tetsu Fujimura, the CEO and founder of 10-year-old Japanese media conglom Gaga Communications, announced that he will raise capital for further expansion by either soliciting large equity investments in Gaga or through an initial public offering within the next four years.

The company- which will distribute “Johnny Mnemonic” and “Dumb and Dumber” in Japan, where it is now handling “The Mask” – is perhaps the only upstart film company to become a major player in Japan’s stodgy film industry in nearly 40 years.

The other independent Japanese distributors are Toho-Towa, Shochiku-Fuji and Nippon Herald. While Fujimura has not yet decided between an IPO on the Tokyo Stock Exchange or private equity investments, he did say he expects to forfeit controlling interest in the company he founded.

Gaga will release approximately 20 films this year, including “Immortal Beloved,” “Rudyard Kipling’s the Jungle Book” and “Tom & Viv.” The company will also distribute about 60 straight-to-video pix.

Fujimura founded Gaga with an initial investment of $3 million in 1986. Gaga has expanded from a film-rights sales agency into a full-fledged media conglom, with film and video distribution, two trade magazines and a publishing shingle that focuses on the novelization of films.

Gaga also plans to jumpstart its film production division by producing 12-15 films per year for the video market at an average budget of $500,000.

Gaga has also taken the plunge into interactive media. The new chairman of the board is Masaya Nakamura, who is also the chairman of Namco, the largest arcade game company in Japan.

While Gaga has focused on acquiring CD-ROM titles, like “The Mask CD-ROM” and Compton NewMedia’s “Secrets of ‘Stargate,'” as well as “A.I. Wonderland” and “Black Sun” at the AFM, it is also developing its own CD-ROM titles.

The company has taken some very unorthodox steps to differentiate itself from other Japanese film distributors – it seeks audience advice, for example, in test screenings to help decide on distribution strategies and marketing campaigns.

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