New Korean distrib aims for 20 pix per year

Showbox plans to secure 2-3 major studio titles

SEOUL — Recently rising as one of the most active film markets in Asia, Korea has had just two key players in the distribution sector, Cinema Service and CJ Entertainment, with Korea Pictures a distant third after its overnight success with “Friend.”

But the industry saw the entrance of a new film investment and distribution company earlier this year. Showbox’s goal is to become the second or third biggest distributor in Korea by next year, with plans to release about 20 films per year.

The distrib was launched by parent company Mediaplex, an affiliate of Korean confectionery giant Orion Group, which also owns the Megabox theater chain, cable TV company On Media (five movie channels), Buy the Way store franchise and Bennigan’s restaurants.

“With this startup, Orion, which recently became independent from the Tong Yang Group, has finally realized its dream of entering the movie business. And this is considered the most opportune time since Korean films are doing so well,” explains June-kyoung Park, marketing manager of Showbox.

The company was launched with capital of about $425,000, but the figure will swell significantly with additional investments later this month, she says.

Showbox will invest in production of Korean films as well as import foreign films and expand its distribution business.

Convinced that the ultimate distribution power in Korea today comes from domestic titles, Showbox has secured partnerships with major investment and production companies like Cinema Service, IM Pictures and KM Culture.

An alliance with these companies has already given Showbox the distribution rights to five domestic titles, including spy adventure “Double Agent,” starring “Shiri” lead Suk-kyoo Han; “Aurora,” from the producers of “Friend” (Korea’s biggest box office hit with 8.3 million admissions); mountain climbing pic “Ice Rain”; and romantic thriller “Addiction.”

On the import side, Showbox plans to secure two or three big major studio titles a year with the support of its international agent, Trans Pacific Media Consultant Group. Eventually, 10-12 foreign titles will be lined up for Korean audiences annually, says the distrib.

“To complete our debut lineup for next year, we are planning on doing major shopping in Cannes, picking up about 10 titles,” Park says.