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‘Once’ draws big price tag

Korean pic to work magic in Japan

Star-driven Korean movies continue to work their magic in Japan. In the highest-profile Korean deal of the market, SPO Inc. bought all Japanese rights to Korean meller “Once in a Summer” (aka “Summer Sonnet”) for a price exceeding half the $4.5 million budget.

Sales agent and producer KM Culture launched “Summer” at recent Hong Kong FilMart, but at the time film was uncast. Recent addition of Lee Byung-hun, star of “A Bittersweet Life” and “JSA,” and one of the three biggest idols in Korean cinema, sparked a bidding frenzy among Japanese buyers. Story sees a female TV producer (Soo-ae) researching the love lives of celebrities and finding love of her own on the way. Korean industry sources put the price of the deal at $3.5 million.

Production got under way this month under helmer Cho Keun-sik (“Conduct Zero”) and delivery is skedded for late November. SPO’s Japanese release is expected to be closely timed with the Korean preem.

KM is also getting strong early interest on “The Railroad,” drama about the meeting of two drunken and emotionally damaged people on a train into the demilitarized border zone. Distaff helmer Park Heung-suk directs Kim Kang-woo and “Sad Movie” star Sohn Tae-young with delivery skedded for January’s Rotterdam fest.

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