CineAsia to honor Intercontinental’s Lai and Jesu


Intercontinental Group Holding Limited’s honorary group chairman, Terry Lai, and advisor Rigo Jesu will be honored with the CineAsia Lifetime Achievement Award in Distribution at the convention’s awards ceremony on Dec. 12 at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre.

“Both Terry and Rigo have a long and acclaimed history that makes them a ‘tour de force’ in distribution, production, content creation, video, gaming, and live performances,” said Robert H. Sunshine, co-managing director of CineAsia.

Terry Lai established Intercontinental Film Distributors (HK) Limited in 1969 to produce and export Chinese films around the world. The company grew and expanded to include film and video distribution, cinema operations and full-service advertising. This success led to the establishment of Intercontinental Group Holdings Limited in 1996. Today, Intercontinental Group is an organization with over 400 employees with a turnover in the HK$600 million range. Its businesses include film and video distribution, cinema operations, advertising and promotion services, videogame distribution, e-commerce, and character products merchandising.

In 1969, Lai and a partner began acquiring foreign rights to Chinese kung fu films. Dubbing them in English, they sold them overseas to great success. This led her to produce five films on her own. By the mid-’70s, she had built up a thriving business based on the export of Chinese kung fu films and the importing of European films for Hong Kong and Asia. As the Western kung fu craze began to subside, she then turned her interests toward distributing foreign films in Hong Kong and acquiring the film rights.

Lai later added a media and promotions section to her business. In 1983, that division was named Perfect Advertising and Production Company (PAPC). In the ensuing years, she acquired the rights to major independent productions such as The Last Emperor, the Rambo series, Basic Instinct and Die Hard with a Vengeance. Under her leadership, IFDL quickly became one of the leading film distributors in Hong Kong.

 From 1992 to February 2011, IFDL was the sub-distributor for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Since 2006, IFDL has been awarded the rights to sub-distribute for Paramount Pictures International. Other than Hollywood and foreign films, IFDL also distributes many Hong Kong and Chinese productions, including the Chinese films produced by Shaw Brothers and TVB, and China’s leading film company, Huayi Brothers Pictures. Furthermore, the company obtained Hong Kong film distribution rights for Japanese animated films, including those by the renowned Hayao Miyazaki. Altogether, IFDL releases approximately 30 titles to the theatrical market each year, for a total of more than 1,000 films released to date.

To provide a guaranteed outlet for their acquired films, Lai set up Multiplex Cinema Limited (MCL), a comprehensive cinema development and operations business, in 1982. Since its inception, MCL has expanded to five cinemas with 26 screens in Hong Kong: MCL JP Cinema (in Causeway Bay with two screens), MCL Kornhill (in Kornhill with five screens), MCL Metro Cinema (in Tseung Kwan O with seven screens), MCL Telford Cinema (in Kowloon Bay with six screens), Star Cinema (in Tseung Kwan O with six screens), and The Grand Cinema (located at Elements in Tsim Sha Tsui with 12 screens), a joint venture partnership with Shaw Group.

MCL also opened MCL Cinema City in Shekou district of Shenzhen, China in August 2006, the first to take advantage of the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement. In April 2010, MCL opened another cinema in Louhu, Shenzhen and more cinema projects are expected in the future.

Rigo Jesu began his career in entertainment at Capital Artists Limited, a subsidiary of TVB International, where he was promoted to the position of acting general manager in 1973. He grew the company’s presentation of major international live performances in Hong Kong as well as establishing a music publishing and recording division for local artists. In 1980, he left to form his own company, Jesu International Entertainment Limited. His business focused on organizing and promoting international shows, presenting in concert famed artists including Eric Clapton, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie.

Apart from running his own business, he also assisted Intercontinental Film Distributors (H.K.) Limited, focusing mainly on the sourcing of foreign films and introducing them into Hong Kong. In 1985, he ceased the operation of his live entertainment business in order to become wholly devoted to the growth and development of IFDL and its parent company, Intercontinental Group Holdings Limited, as its managing director. His focus was to develop the group into a diversified entertainment organization, with businesses covering film and video distribution, computer game distribution and e-commerce, character products merchandising, advertising and promotion, and cinema operations.

In 1993, when Buena Vista International was looking for a local distributor in Hong Kong and Macau to sub-distribute their films theatrically, Rigo again assisted and won the distribution rights for IFDL. The company built up a mass market for Disney animation with local star talent dubbing and event marketing which extended to Disney’s Pixar animated films. In 2001, Jesu assisted IFDL to acquire a master license to reissue the classic animated feature library of Studio Ghibli, the number-one animation workshop in Japan. In 2006, he obtained the right to distribute films produced by Paramount and DreamWorks Animation Studios, and United International Pictures. From 2005 to 2011, Jesu was co-CEO of Intercontinental Group, and now serves as advisor.