UPI set to shutter S. Korean distrib

Office will be replaced by new branch

SEOUL — Universal Pictures Intl. will shutter the South Korean branch of United Intl. Pictures, its foreign theatrical distrib with Paramount, on Dec. 31.

The office will be replaced by a new branch of UPI, which will distribute Universal pictures and local acquisitions from Jan. 1.

An announcement regarding the distribution of Paramount product in South Korea is expected later this week. Industry sources expect Par to unveil an alliance with local major CJ Entertainment that will likely also handle DreamWorks’ titles in Korea.

UPI’s Korean office follows similar initiatives in Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and Russia.

“We are very excited to now have our own presence in the Korean market, which continues to grow from strength to strength,” said UPI prexy David Kosse. “This is a new era for Universal Pictures.”

Move underlines the growing importance of the Korean theatrical market, which by some measures is now the world’s fifth or sixth largest.

Go-it-alone strategy by Universal is a change of tack for UIP in Asia.

The 30-year-old joint venture is being dismantled in many parts of the world but Universal and Paramount confirmed last December that the combo would be kept intact until at least 2008.

However, in May Universal decided to independently partner up with local distribber Edko in Hong Kong.

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