S. Korean company to coin 8 pics using local directors

HOLLYWOOD — CJ Entertainment will produce a slate of low-budget movies to promote its digital theater chain.

The South Korean giant will fully finance eight pics with budgets in the $1.5 million-$2.5 million range. They will be made by local helmers using high-definition digital technology throughout.

“By doing these films in HD we can cut budgets by 30% while also promoting digital cinemas,” said Shin Shang-han, CJ exec veep and head of distribution, film production, financing and marketing.

CJ has assembled many of the country’s top helmers including Park Chan-wook (“Old Boy”), Ryoo Seung-wan (“Arahan”) and Hur Jin-ho (“April Snow”). Others scheduled to contribute to the campaign include Yu Ha, Choi Dong-hoon, Lee Moo-young and Choi Ik-kwan, plus a rookie director who will be named in the next weeks.

Production of the slate, which kicks off with Ryoo’s “Jjakpae” in November, will be overseen by Lee Tae-heon, CJ head of production services.

Although CJ’s plex network has only a handful of digital projectors, it expects swiftly to install more. CJ described the process of making digital movies to drive demand for its digital screens as both an example of “backward linkage” and as an attempt to counter the current shortage of locally originated content.

In addition to reducing budgets, CJ expects the end-to-end digital process to boost creative freedom, cut distribution costs and shrink production times. All eight pics will be delivered in 2006-07.

“The value lies not only in the reduction of production cost but also in our ability to foster an environment in which the range and number of films produced will be significantly increased. The strength of Korean movies comes from continuous innovation. This project will help to contribute further to the improvement in the quality of Korean movies,” said Shin.

That perspective was echoed by helmer Park: “HD production will play an important role in increasing the range of new and innovative films available to audiences.”

CJ’s foreign sales team, which recently absorbed its rivals from Cinema Service, said it was unclear whether the films will be sold as a package or individually in international markets.

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