Heady prices paid by Japanese buyers have powered growth

SEOUL — South Korean film exports rose for the ninth year in a row in 2005, with strong demand from Japan pushing receipts to $67 million.

Stats compiled by local investor-producer IM Pictures see a 15% rise over 2004. Heady prices paid by Japanese buyers have powered the growth, as an Asiawide fad for Korean pop culture continues to roll.

Major pre-sales to Japan include meller “April Snow” (a record $7.5 million), romantic comedy “Cheong chun man hwa” ($4.5 million), Park Chan-wook thriller “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” ($3 million), melodrama “Yeonriji Now and Forever” ($3.5 million), crime thriller “Running Wild” ($4 million) and action blockbuster “Typhoon” ($4 million).

Industry watchers give Korea’s star system biggest credit for the export boom. All the titles feature actors who, although virtually unknown in the West, enjoy major name recognition in Japan.

Top-grossing Korean releases in Japan to date are dramas “A Moment to Remember” ($24 million), “April Snow” ($23.5 million) and romantic comedy “Windstruck” ($17.3 million). The Asian region in total accounted for 80.3% of overall exports, with Europe buoyant at 15.5% and North America stagnant at 3.3%.

IM Pictures also estimated that investors in Korea’s film industry netted $16.7 million in profits, the third year in a row that the sector as a whole stayed in the black. Average budget for the 80-plus Korean films produced in 2005 was $2.9 million, plus an average $1.5 million P&A spend.

Most expensive Korean pic is the $18 million “Typhoon,” which opened last Dec. 14 with an $11 million five-day gross.

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