Although a formal announcement has yet to be made, sources close to the company told Variety that Sony Pictures Korea will cease operations at the end of the year. Sony’s last Korean release is expected to be “Fury,” starring Brad Pitt, who is scheduled to visit the country to promote the film.
It is expected that Universal Pictures International will then take over distribution duties, according to sources.
Sony became the first Hollywood studio to handle its own distribution in Korea, when it set up a unit of Columbia Tristar in 1990. In 2006 it inked a joint venture with Disney, creating Sony Pictures Releasing Walt Disney Studios Korea, though that relationship has recently been dissolved.
Disney and Marvel films including “Avengers: Age of Ultron” are now being distributed by Disney alone.
The reasons for the ending of Sony Korea, which currently employs 16 staff, has caused a degree of speculation.
While some sources point to the continuing success of local Korean films, and the consequent squeeze on Hollywood distributors, SPRWDS has the second best performance of any distributor so far this year with a market share of 14%. In contrast UPI ranks ninth to date with just 2%. Other sources point to internal issues.
Korea is the world’s sixth largest theatrical market, ranking behind India, but ahead of Russia and Germany in 2013, according to MPAA data.