UPI, Focus ‘Thirst’ for vampire film

Studios to invest in, co-produce Park pic

HONG KONG — Universal Pictures and Focus Features have boarded “Oldboy” director Park Chan-wook’s in-production vampire movie “Thirst.”

It’s the first time a Korean film has received U.S. studio coin and a Stateside distribution commitment before its local release.

Universal and Focus will invest in and co-produce the pic, which has so far been steered by Korean major CJ Entertainment.

Focus will bow the film in North America with CJ handling the remaining international sales rights. CJ also will distribute the film in South Korea.

The deal was announced Thursday by UPI Studio prexy Christian Grass, Focus CEO James Schamus and CJ CEO Kim Joo-sung.

Thirst” stars Song Kang-ho (“Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” “The Host,” “The Good the Bad and the Weird”) and Shin Ha-kyun (“Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”).  Involving unusually risqué elements, pic also stars Kim Ok-bi (“Dasepo Naughty Girls,”) as leading lady.

Pic is about a priest who participates in a medical experiment to find a cure for a deadly disease with traumatic repercussions.

It is skedded to be completed in time for a festival bow in mid-2009.

 ” ‘Thirst’ is especially exciting for us, as it’s the first time a major studio has co-produced with a South Korean entertainment company in this way,” said Grass.  “Park Chan-wook is one of the most talented and influential Korean directors working today.  We’re really pleased to be partnering with CJ on this production.”

“First, this is a vote of confidence in CJ and director Park, but also having a film of this scale get the backing of a major studio in North America opens up an opportunity for all Korean films,” said Katharine Kim, exec VP and head of international at CJ. “Second, it is important to us to have Universal and Focus’ financial commitment while the film is in production.”

Park is best known for “Old Boy,” which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes in 2003 and 2005 hit “Lady Vengeance,” both of which sold internationally after their domestic release.

The co-production is being overseen by Grass; Jason Resnick, senior VP and general manager of worldwide acquisitions for Universal Pictures; and CJ’s Kim.

(Bobbie Whiteman in Hollywood contributed to this report).

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