Cine Qua Non files for bankruptcy

Japanese film company had debts of $52.5 mil

TOKYO — Cine Qua Non, a film distrib and producer that helped launch the Korean Wave in Japan in the early 2000s, and its allied theater management company have filed for bankruptcy in Tokyo district court.

One of the three directly managed CQN theaters in Tokyo closed on Thursday, while the other two are still operating.

According to figures compiled by corporate credit researcher Teikoku Databank, the total debt of both companies is $52.5 million. The production-distribution business alone has rung up a $44.8 million loss.

Started in 1989 by Lee Bong Ou, an ethnic Korean born and raised in Japan, CQN at first distribbed arthouse pics, such as Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “The Decalogue.” In 1993, it produced its first pic, Yoichi Sai’s “All Under the Moon,” a dramedy about a cynical Korean cabdriver that won a slew of prizes. Also a hit with critics and auds was the 2004 Kazuyuki Izutsu teen drama “Pacchigi!” The company’s biggest B.O. winner, however, was “Hula Girls,” a zero-to-hero pic about a provincial hula troupe that earned $15.5 million in 2006. Cine Qua Non also distribbed the smash Korean thrillers “Shuri” (2000) and “JSA” (2001), launching a buying spree for Korea pics, though none reached the B.O. of the first two.

Hits have been scarce in recent years, while the DVD market has gone south, making it harder for CQN and other small to midsize distribs to recoup. Several others have also folded their tents.

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