Starlight Culture Entertainment is backing a quartet of notable Hollywood filmmakers — Jonathan Liebesman, Sylvester Stallone, Alan Taylor and Robert Zemeckis — as part of its $100 million development fund.
The company is a China-backed firm with offices in Beverly Hills, Calif. It operates under the leadership of CEO Peter Luo, and came to notice in 2016 through a deal with “Aquaman” director James Wan. Starlight then signed deals with F. Gary Gray, Roland Emmerich and Jon M. Chu last year, and invested in the Thurgood Marshall biopic “Marshall.”
Thursday’s announcement did not identify specific projects or details of the financing. Zemeckis, whose credits include “Forrest Gump,” “The Polar Express,” “Cast Away,” “Flight” and the Back to the Future trilogy, lavished praise on Luo for his support of filmmakers.
“Under the leadership of Peter Luo, Starlight has created an environment that is incredibly friendly to filmmakers,” he added. “I could not be more pleased with my collaboration on all levels of the Starlight family. I am in total solidarity with their business plan as they want to create accessible, artistic, and commercial entertainment for a global audience.”
Starlight said Thursday that CEO Luo and his team are establishing two film funds with plans to support up to 20 directors by the end of the year. To establish the funds, Starlight is working with strategic partners Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group, Dr. Peng Group and Emei Film Group, which also owns the biggest movie theater chain in western China.
Those four partners generated the $100 million for the development fund and are now planning four funds worth a combined total of between $500 million and $1 billion for development, production financing and co-financing/partnerships with other studios.
Starlight’s goal is develop a portfolio of intellectual properties and build out additional revenue models that include mobile games and merchandising. Within five years, it expects to see a return from these projects, but also incorporate industrial development of these properties through the establishment of film-related theme parks in China.
“The structure of the capital funds is very strategic as is our management of the entire pipeline from development to production, and design to merchandising,” said Luo. “Without the proper insight and vision, it’s a gamble, so we are working hard to mitigate and balance the risk, similar to that of most venture capitalists. Ultimately we hope that the funds and partnerships to result in the creation of long-lasting brands based on the directors and their associated IP.”
Chu will develop projects for the fund through his new venture, The Electric Somewhere Co. He directed “Crazy Rich Asians” for Warner Bros., which opens on Aug. 17.
“Peter’s true passion for film and especially filmmakers is evident in our conversations and the incredible support we have in this partnership,” Chu said. “It’s refreshing to have someone who loves movies and believes in the collective cinematic experience without compromise. We are developing some really ground breaking, diverse and unique projects that deserve to be on the big screen and Starlight has given us a way to do so in a massive way.”
Liebesman, who directed “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” said, “I’m honored to be a part of Starlight’s family. I share their passion for telling stories about characters that haven’t had the chance to be heard.”
Taylor directed “Terminator Genisys” and “Thor: The Dark World.” He’s best known as a TV director with credits on “Game of Thrones,” “Lost,” “The West Wing,” “The Sopranos,” and “Mad Men.”
Stallone directed the final four Rocky movies and “Rambo.” He received Oscar nominations for screenplay and acting in “Rocky” and another acting nomination for 2015’s “Creed.”