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Partnership to Develop Entertainment Businesses in Vietnam (March 03, 2005)


NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 2, 2005--J. Edward Shugrue, former President of Loews Cineplex International and long-time President of Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International announced today the formation of Envoy Media Partners Ltd. The partnership will develop entertainment businesses in underserved markets overseas and brings together the resources of Mekong Leisure Ltd. and Asian Capital Partners LLC.

The partnership's first venture will be to develop state-of-the-art theater complexes and to distribute international films in Vietnam - one of the last sizable, virtually untapped markets for cinema development in the world. Research indicates a potential movie-going audience of between 25 and 30 million people clustered in the main cities, however there are fewer than 100 theatres operating in the entire country.

"Sub-standard theaters and limited access are the unfortunate reality in Vietnam. The leading film distributors of the world have all but abandoned the market. We believe that given the chance to view contemporary films in first class cinemas with big screens and multi-channel sound, the Vietnamese population will respond and embrace movie-going in a very big way," stated Shugrue.

After nearly two years of research and development by the Envoy partners and an arduous government permit process, Envoy yesterday was granted its investment and operational licenses from the Vietnamese government's Ministry of Planning and Investment. The licenses enable the formation of Megastar Cineplex, a purpose built joint venture in Vietnam between Envoy Media Partners and Vietnam's premier publisher and publication retail operator, Phoung Nam Corporation (PNC). Madame Phan Thi Le, the Director General of PNC, will serve as the local partner of MegaStar Cineplex.

"Most importantly," continued Shugrue "the licenses that we have been granted allow us to not only build exciting movie going destinations, but also to import film and to distribute those films -after censorship- to our cinemas and in turn to the other theaters operating in the territory. We intend to import films not only from Hollywood, but also from China, Hong Kong, Korea and Europe....whatever the market's audience demands."

"We are so pleased to have PNC join this formidable partnership to provide world-class movie-going experiences to Vietnam," stated Madame Le. "This is an important step in the growth of PNC that over time will allow us to grow many segments of our business in many areas of entertainment."

Vietnam is the second fastest growing economy in Asia, with a population of over 82 million people of which 50% are under the age of 25 and 80% are under the age of 40 -- a key movie-going demographic. The majority of the cinema screens in the country are in disrepair and do not utilize contemporary technologies.

"The market for cinema should prove astounding in Vietnam," commented partner Don DeVivo of MeKong Leisure, a privately held investment group with an eight year history of operating businesses in Vietnam. "I expect it may take some time to build a movie-going habit in this market, but the Vietnamese population craves high-quality entertainment and comfortable environments in which to enjoy it."

"While Vietnam may be one of the last untapped cinema markets left in the world, there are many smaller markets and opportunities that Envoy will also explore," commented Richard Rosenfield, Envoy partner and head of Asian Capital Partners, a group of private investors. "I am delighted to have Ted with us at Envoy with his many years of international entertainment experience. We are already looking at other opportunities overseas."

ABOUT THE PARTNERS

J. Edward Shugrue, who has built successful cinema joint ventures in Spain, Italy and Korea, will act as CEO of Envoy Media Partners. He served for ten years as founding President of Columbia Tristar Film Distributors International, during years of great growth for the company; and forged important distribution deals for Columbia with Disney, Orion, Fox and The Wientraub Entertainment Group, among others.

Richard A. Rosenfield, Manager of Asian Capital Partners, built and operated the M&R Circuit of theaters in Illinois for many years. After selling that business to Loews Cineplex in the early 1990's, he invested in the start up Cinemex Corporation of Mexico City and served on its board while that company became the leading cinema operator in Mexico City. That company was sold to the Onex Corporation of Canada in 2002.

Donald L. DeVivo, a principal of Zesiger Capital Group of New York and MeKong Leisure, has decades of experience in Vietnam. He lived in the nation for 10 years and, in addition to Mekong Leisure, also founded and operated Indo-China Building Supply, Ltd. with Goldman Sachs as the major shareholder. MeKong Leisure, among other enterprises in the country, has operated the Saigon Water Park, an entertainment venture from which key management for the MegaStar Cineplex circuit is expected to be recruited.

Phoung Nam Corporation is a joint stock company in Vietnam that is 35% government owned. The company specializes in Vietnamese publishing and represents many local artists in literature and music, as well as local filmmakers. The company operates over 12 local retail outlets for its products. Madame Le is among the nation's youngest chief executives and is a highly respected business person in Vietnamese commerce and retail.

Interview Opportunities

J. Edward Shugrue, Richard Rosenfield and Don DeVivo will be available for interviews on Wednesday, March 2nd.

Reprinted from BUSINESS WIRE

     

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