Lotte looks to expand biz ops

Co. to take more active approach as investor, distrib

Lotte, a massive retail/construction conglomerate that ranks as Korea’s fifth-largest business group, has secured its place as Korea’s No. 2 exhibitor — but has ambitions to expand in other sectors.

“As a late entrant to the film industry, Lotte has up until now focused mostly on establishing its foundations,” says CEO Kim Kwang Seop. “But (beginning) next year, we plan to present a much more active approach as a major investor and distributor.”

After launching its distribution arm in 2004, Lotte released nine titles for a 3.9% market share in 2005 and 12 titles for a 4.7% share in the first eight months of 2006. Next year’s plans call for 15 Korean pics and seven foreign titles.

“Until this year we had not imported films directly, but at the Cannes market we acquired New Line’s ‘Golden Compass’ in a 50% partnership with Taewon Entertainment, and we plan to buy more independently in the future,” says Kim.

In terms of local pics, Kim says that “participating as a main investor is the key to success in this business,” and that the company’s strategy is moving towards majority investing. This will also provide more titles for Lotte’s international sales division, launched this year.

Still, hardtops will remain Lotte’s key strength. Honored by ShoWest in March as Intl. Distributor of the Year, it earned revenues of $69.7 million in the first half of 2006, and currently operates 249 screens in 32 venues.

It is shooting for an ambitious 600 screens by the end of 2008.

“Currently we are considering an expansion into other Asian countries, particularly Vietnam and China,” says Kim.

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