Territory report: South Korea

SEOUL — Stiff competition between South Korea’s leading indies, C.J. Entertainment and Cinema Service, continues, but many expect C.J. to make history this year by being the first local distrib to top the box office every quarter this year.

Distrib dominated the first quarter with “My Tutor Friend,” the second with “Memories of Murder,” the third with “Untold Scandal” and is expected come out ahead again in the fourth with “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

It’s been a popular year for genre pics, with hit titles including thriller “Memories of Murder” and summer horror movies “The Tale of Two Sisters,” “Into the Mirror” and “Wishing Stairs.” The critically acclaimed “Two Sisters,” based on a Korean folktale, bowed throughout Asia and saw great success in Taiwan and Singapore.

Other summer hits included action pic “Wild Card” and romantic comedy “Singles,” helping Korean films nab a first-half market share of 47.1% (based on Seoul admissions only). Studios, on the other hand, had a relatively weak first half, releasing just two notable hits: “Matrix Reloaded” and “X-Men 2.”

Meanwhile, Hollywood snapped up a large number of remake rights to Korean pics this year, including “Jail Breakers,” “Addicted,” “My Teacher, Mr. Kim,” “The Tale of Two Sisters” and “Tell Me Something.” Two movies are already in production.

As the homegrown film industry continues to flourish, U.S. sellers have urged South Korea to scrap its screen quota, a program that requires local exhibs to program 40% of skeds with homegrown fare.

At the same time, local moviegoers have called for more arthouse fare, which has resulted in re-runs for foreign titles such as “Gloomy Sunday,” “Talk to Her,” “The Pianist” and Korean films “Oseam” and “Jealousy Is My Middle Name.”

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