Since taking over as CEO of CJ Entertainment in late 2005, Kim Joo-sung has seen his company solidify its position as the local market’s biggest player, while also pushing ahead on an international level. With the local film industry suffering a downturn in 2007, CJ has remained active in financing new projects, helping to boost the conglomerate’s influence.
CJ is leading 2007 distributor rankings by a large margin: 28.5% on 28 releases compared with 14% on 15 releases for second-place Showbox.
It has just scored its biggest local hit ever with “May 18,” a risky, big-budget project that has grossed $50.1 million. Through a newly minted distribution deal with Paramount, CJ also released “Transformers,” which set a record for imported pics with $50.9 million. (Showbox’s “D-War” ranks as the year’s biggest hit with $57.8 million.)
Kim, a former head of CJ Media, is also credited with pursuing a more hands-on approach to production. CJ has revived its own production division, releasing Korean-Japanese horror pic “Black House” in June, and is also increasingly making its weight felt in CJ-financed films from other production companies. In June it also stepped in to board Kim Jee-woon’s highly anticipated Western “The Good, the Bad and the Weird” when the original financing/distribution deal with Showbox dissolved.
In the realm of international sales, CJ’s lineup has dwarfed that of any other Korean seller since the absorption of Cinema Service’s sales team in mid-2005.
But Kim has spearheaded a more active push into foreign markets, pacting with China Film Group in June to co-produce upcoming titles, and partnering regularly with Kadokawa in Japan. Through its U.S. office, CJ produced its first American film, the New York-set “West 32nd” by Michael Kang, and has also linked arms with Warner Bros. to co-produce “August Rush” starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Robin Williams.