The company was founded by Red Apollo’s Rick Zhang Yifeng and is operated by film sales veteran Brett Lauter, as VP of global sales and acquisitions. Lauter was previously with companies including Entertainment Properties, AAAA Entertainment, and Pan Global Entertainment, and post-production services company Contact Video.
Saga has financial backing from Lens Media, parent of Red Apollo. The new venture starts life with a seven-film supply deal from ZDF Enterprises, part of German public broadcaster ZDF. It expects to be present at the major autumn film trade events including the Toronto festival and the American Film Market.
“We see Red Apollo as handling acquisitions from the U.S. and Europe. Saga complements that as the pan-Asia distributor,” Lauter told Variety. “In contrast to U.S.-based distributors who try to cover the whole world, we are a China-based distributor with an office in the U.S. Our China expertise enables us to maximize rights-holders’ revenues in the fast-growing pan-Asian market.”
Saga, which defines Asia as including Japan, India, Indonesia and most points in between, but excludes Australia and New Zealand, does not currently have its own distribution network outside China. In territories outside China, it will act as a sales agent.
“Most Saga films will not get a theatrical release in China. That’s not a problem as we have excellent connections with the VoD and digital channels,” said Lauter.
Lauter identified action, high concept, sci-fi and thrillers as key genres of the company, ideally with films having at least one actor in the IMDb top 500 ranking. “We’re dedicated to seeking films for distribution with strong commercial value. The high-quality titles acquired through the ZDF partnership will be perfect for the territory.”
Red Apollo, which been operating since 2003 and now has 30 distribution staff in China, was involved in the China distribution of “The Infiltrator,” “Pride & Prejudice and Zombies,” and “The Zookeeper’s Wife.” Its next theatrical release is Danny Boon-starring French action comedy “Raid Dingue.”