Buyers seek outside help

SEOUL — After a mid-decade boom, Korean cinema has slowed down as it faces the after-effects of a burst bubble in film finance. The scale of local production dropped sharply in 2007, with midsize films in particular struggling to find investment. However, low-budget films shot for less than $1 million, many of which receive support from the Korean Film Council (Kofic), are becoming more common. One representative example is acclaimed director Yoon Jong-chan, who after the $10 million “Blue Sparrow” is shooting his third film on a shoestring budget.

Local film industry execs aren’t optimistic that the situation will improve in the near future. Instead of producing local films, they just choose to buy foreign ones. “There are too many Korean buyers who look forward to acquiring movies. Due to the rivalry, sellers don’t close the deal in order to hike prices after the asking price is accepted. That’s not fair,” Sponge prexy David Cho says.

With production crews finding it more difficult to line up well-paying work, now would seem an ideal time for Korea to market itself as an international shooting location. Although the territory has yet to attract a major international production, interest from overseas is rising, with an increasing number of producers flying to Seoul to explore the possibilities offered by the city’s 25% rebate on in-city spending (capped at $100,000). Among these is an untitled Channing Tatum project being pushed by Fox Atomic and producer Roy Lee, who says he is keen to open more eyes in Hollywood to Korea’s potential as a shooting location.

SOUTH KOREA STATS
FILM FINANCE AT A GLANCE
Total film production spend in 2007:
$490 million
Anticipated production spend for 2008: Insiders are predicting a drop — anywhere from 30% or more. Kofic declined to speculate.

INCENTIVES
Seoul city provides a 25% rebate on in-city shooting, capped at $100,000. Incentives also cover airfare/accommodation for location scouting. Kofic provides $220,000 to two international co-productions per year. The Busan Film Commission also has a small fund that may be made available to foreign shoots.

WEB
Seoul Film Commission:
seoulfc.or.kr
Busan Film Commission: bfc.or.kr
Korean Film Council: kofic.or.kr/english

B.O. STATS
Top film:
“D-War,” $57 million
Total B.O.: $1.05 billion* (158.8 million admissions)
Total number of releases: 112
*estimated

PICKUPS
“Frozen River,” Jin Jin Pictures
“Happy-Go-Lucky,” Sponge
“Run,” Ssamzie Entertainment
“Knowing,” Mars Entertainment
“The Box,” Eureka Pictures

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