Shanghai-based investment firm Puji Capital has launched a movie investment subsidiary, Puji Films, whose first move is to back former Columbia boss Peter Guber’s new Mandalay Endurance Media Ventures.
MEMV is a joint enterprise between Mandalay Entertainment, Endurance Media and sports owner Jeff Vinik. Puji describes MEMV as a production, financing, and international distribution platform with a focus on producing and distributing star-driven action, thriller, and comedy films. It is headed by Guber and Steve Richards (“The Matrix: Reloaded,” “The Book of Eli”) and backed by major shareholders including Vinik, Mandalay Entertainment COO Paul Schaeffer, and Peter Strauss, former Lionsgate chairman.
Puji Capital was previously involved as an investor in aXiomatic, an eSports venture headed by Guber and Ted Leonsis, and as a backer of Dalian Wanda’s abortive attempt to buy Dick Clark Productions. Puji Films is headed by Lily Zhao.
“We are at an interesting inflection with China’s film industry,” Zhao said in a statement. “We have China becoming the most important market globally, coupled with an increasingly sophisticated Chinese audience who strive for compelling stories and movies that captivate the heart and mind. The Chinese audience is no longer looking for just the biggest explosion and CGI action sequence, but also the story and characters that drive the film. MEMV is the first platform with the right approach for China.”
Richards’ Endurance Media is a producer on “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House,” a political thriller about the Watergate scandal. Directed by Peter Landesman and starring Liam Neeson, it was acquired for release by Sony Pictures Classics.
According to Zhao, MEMV will have a strong influence in China with films that have mass commercial appeal as well as stories and characters that will attract Chinese audiences. It will also seek opportunities in the digital and mobile space.
Guber is a former CEO and chairman of Columbia Pictures Entertainment and owner or co-owner of three professional sports teams, including the Golden State Warriors (NBA), Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB), and Los Angeles Football Club (MLS). Leonsis was founder of SnagFilms and is founder and chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the owner of the Washington Capitals hockey team.