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2013 American Film Market Report

by SONG Soon-jin   12.27.2013
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Regardless of Genre, Korean Films Are Reaching Out to the World
 

The American Film Market, the biggest of its kind in North America, has been a significant event to gauge the possibility of premiering Korean movies in the region and other parts of the world.

Since the beginning of the millennium as the world began to take an interest in Korean films, the country’s filmmakers have occupied more and more booths at AFM. Not only for blockbusters from 2009 Lost Memories (2002), Musa - The Warrior (2001) to Snowpiercer (2013), but also for the auteur works from directors like KIM Ki-duk and SONG Hae-sung, as well as Korean-style romantic comedies, like My Sassy Girl (2001) and Finding Mr. Destiny (2010). They’ve all had a chance to enter the world’s markets through AFM.

As a large number of Korean idol stars have made their way to the big screen and diverse works based on webtoons and real stories have filled the market, many Korean films left a great impression at this year’s AFM, held from November 8th to 13th. The biggest success of the event was an animation, The Nut Job which will be released on 3,000 screens throughout North America on January 17th, 2014. Since last year, the KRW 36.3 billion (USD 34.2 million) production has been carrying out showcases and other promotional activities. Through this year’s AFM, the animation received interest from sales companies of about 100 countries.

Friend: The Great Legacy, produced by Lotte Entertainment, also made news by securing sales deals with the US, Japan and Taiwan even before premiering in Korea. The lead roles in this sequel to KWAK Kyung-taek’s Friend (2001) are played by KIM Woo-bin - a newcomer from the ranks of Korean-wave stars known for his drama roles - and YOO Oh-seong, who was a protagonist in the original. A US distributor, Dreamwest Pictures, bought the sales rights. The company has already released a number of Korean films such as Secretly Greatly and The Face Reader. Friend: The Great Legacy will hit North American screens on the 13th of December in 14 cities. Nikkatsu Corporation, a long-standing producer and distributor since 1912, will oversee its distribution in Japan.
 

Lotte Entertainment also sold the thriller The Terror, LIVE, starring HA Jung-woo, to Australia and New Zealand while romantic comedies Steal My Heart and Queen of the Night were sold to Mongolia and Taiwan. Actor PARK Joong-hoon’s debut film as a director, Top Star, and LEE Joon-ik’s new production Hope will also become available to Taiwanese fans. In addition, these two succeeded in clinching deals with in-flight entertainment providers servicing all parts of the world except Korea and Taiwan. Two more unreleased films have signed agreements to go on screens in Hong Kong and Taiwan:  the Korea-Japan collaboration, Genome Hazard  and Blood Boiling Youth (literal translation), starring PARK Bo-young of Scandal Makers and LEE Jong-suk, a new actor.
 
Showbox/Mediaplex premiered Hwayi: A Monster Boy, directed by JANG Joon-hwan, and Commitment with idol star CHOI Seung-hyun. These two had already secured quite a number of sales but added a few more at AFM. Distribution rights for Hwayi: A Monster Boy were sold to Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Germany and France. Coming as a bit of a surprise, Commitment was sold all over Asia, including to Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as Germany and North America. Following its releases in Singapore at the end of November and on December 20th in Taiwan, theatres in Hong Kong will begin showing the film on January 2nd while it will screen from January 28th in Japan. Also during AFM, The Suspect - directed by WON Shin-yun and starring by GONG Yoo - made its way to Asian, North American and European markets. According to Ms. JUNG Soo-jin, a manager of the Showbox distribution team, “Commitment will be in full sales mode next year when it premieres at EFM (European Film Market) which will be held in Berlin in February.”
 

CJ Entertainment also succeeded in marketing The Spy: Undercover Operation, AM 11:00, Blood and Ties and Battle of Myeongryang. Genre movies that were screened in Korea during the latter half of 2013, such as Killer Toon, The Spy: Undercover Operation, AM 11:00 and Steel Cold Winter were sold to Celestial Tiger Entertainment, a television broadcasting company with subscribing channels in ten Asian countries. People related to the market have said that there were a large number of remake inquiries for Blood and Ties and AM 11:00. SON Ye-jin plays a daughter in Blood and Ties who suspects that her loving father, played by KIM Kap-soo, may be a kidnapper; and AM 11:00 is about people who can see what will happen 24 hours in the future and are struggling to prevent their own deaths. In addition, Battle of Myeongryang by KIM Han-min, who made War of the Arrows (2011), emerged as an exciting sea warfare blockbuster.
 
United Pictures also participated at AFM and began full-scale sales activities with Cold Eyes. Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival as a Gala Presentation, Cold Eyes was invited to various international festivals and during the Cannes Film Festival it already settled on overseas marketing deals with territories such as Japan. At AFM, it signed distribution contracts with Cineplex of South America and AV Jet of Taiwan. The multi-strand romcom Marriage Blue, illustrating people with cold feet before getting married, entered the event through M-Line and will be making its way to the Philippines.
 
By SONG Soon-jin

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