CJ Ent. to distrib ‘Clown’ in Japan

Co. will team with Eagle Films, Kadokawa Herald

South Korean major CJ Entertainment has decided not to sell the Japanese rights to its B.O. record breaker “King and the Clown.”

Instead CJ and production company Eagle Films will distribute the pic with Kadokawa Herald, CJ’s regular Japanese business partner.

Agreement between CJ and Kadokawa is a variation on a strong trend of Korean movies being imported into Japan. Increasingly however, Korean talent and producers are cutting out the middle men in their Nippon deals.

On Monday Korean production shingle Boram Entertainment inked a conventional license deal with Japan’s Digital Adventure, for meller “A Millionaire’s First Love,” without working through an international sales house.

Digital Adventure is an affiliate of Japan’s leading media investor Softbank, which Monday confirmed that it is in talks to buy Vodafone’s Japanese cell phone business. Company has yet to ally itself with theatrical and home entertainment releasing partners.

“Millionaire’s First Love” stars Hyun Bin, who won Japanese fans playing a rich high school student forced to spend a year in the country under the terms of his grandfather’s will in TV drama “My Lovely Samsoon.”

Contract stipulates a $1.5 million minimum guarantee, with box office incentives that could push the final figure to $3 million.

Helmed by Kim Tae-kyun (“Volcano High”), pic earned a mediocre $3.6 million on its local release on Feb. 9.

As for “King and the Clown,” CJ and Kadokawa will release the film on a profit-sharing basis in spring 2007.  The pair sealed a wide-ranging co-operation pact in mid-2005.

Although the film’s minimum guarantee was bid above the $2 million mark at the European Film Market in Berlin last month, CJ was said to be less impressed with buyers’ proposed marketing plans, given the lack of a major star.

CJ and Kadokawa have partnered in the South Korean market, but this will be the first time the two have co-released a film in Japan.

“King” is pushing 12 million admissions in Korea with a B.O. cume north of $80 million, while remaining at No. 2 in the box office on a robust 223 screens.