US interest in Asia's film and entertainment industries is hotting up with Lionsgate becoming the latest mini-major, following The Weinstein Company and Hyde Park Entertainment, to make a major investment in the region.

Lionsgate is understood to be one of the main investors in a Hong Kong-based operation being set up by former Celestial Pictures chief William Pfeiffer. The new outfit will produce Asian film and TV content for global distribution, in addition to launching TV channels.

Pfeiffer, who worked with Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer at Sony in the 1990s, launched Celestial in 2001 with backing from Malaysian tycoon Ananda Krishnan. Under his leadership, the company launched TV channels and licensed the Shaw Brothers library in more than 100 territories.

A Lionsgate spokesman declined comment on his new venture. However it's understood that Lionsgate will make an off-balance sheet investment in the company, which also has backing from several other international investors.

Separately Lionsgate is co-distributing China-set action adventure The Forbidden Kingdom, starring Jet Li and Jackie Chan, with The Weinstein Company.

Meanwhile, Hyde Park Entertainment's Ashok Amritraj is in the process of setting up three films in Asia as part of his expanding regional operations, while The Weinstein Company, which launched the $285m Asian Film Fund last year, has signed an output deal and two-picture co-production pact with Hong Kong's Sundream Motion Pictures (see separate story).

Hyde Park, which already has an office in India and is opening an outpost in Singapore, plans to produce 6-8 films a year in Asia, including local-language productions and English-language films for the international market.

The company's Asian slate includes Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-li, based on the Japanese video game, which starts shooting this week in Bangkok and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong actress Josie Ho recently joined Kristin Kruek, Michael Clark Duncan, Chris Klein, Edmund Chen and Cheng Pei Pei in the cast of film which Twentieth Century Fox is distributing in the US.