Drawing on South Korea

TWC, Gotham Group in 3-way toon pact

NEW YORK The Weinstein Co. has established a strategic relationship with the government of a South Korean province and animation management firm the Gotham Group for the pro-duction and distribution of toon features.

Unorthodox pact with Chungcheongnam-do and Gotham took about two years to finalize. No titles were specified, and details of the equity split among the partners were not disclosed, but the budget range per picture is projected to be $25 million-$40 million.

There is no set timeframe on the deal, but the three entities are aiming to produce six to 10 titles over its duration.

As part of the relationship, TWC has also entered into a multiyear first- look deal with the Gotham Group, which reps 250 top directors, writers, producers and others. The company’s many film productions include “The Spiderwick Chronicles” for Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies.

The three partners were brought together by Jon Vein on behalf of the Gotham Group and Mariel Clemensen of Clemensen Capital, an investment bank specializing in North Asia, both of whom structured the deal.

“The labor rates are much lower in Korea, which is the key to why so much labor-intensive animation work is done there,” Vein said. “But for the government to actually be a partner and have a stake in the success of what they’re producing is, I think, unprecedented.”

Chungcheongnam-do, with a population of about 2 million, is in the west-central part of the Korean peninsula, along the West Sea. Chungcheongnam-do established its media center in 1999 and has invested about $40 million in media projects since.

The projects produced by the venture will be based on work from Gotham clients, though not exclusively.

Animated features will be principally co-produced in the Chungcheongnam-do province, including at its media center. TWC will handle worldwide distribution on all titles produced under the deal, with the provincial government helping out in certain Asian markets.

“Korea and its animation production companies have been at the center of the television animation business for years but have outsourced jobs only to this point,” said Hee Sup Kim, chief manager of the Media Center of Chungcheongnam-do. “Now we want to extend further to the animated theatrical film business by being co-producer with prominent partners in the U.S.”

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