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Paramount Switches Korean Distributor for Lee Byung-hun’s ‘Terminator Genisys’

Korean star Byung-hun Lee at LACMA's
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

SEOUL — Paramount Pictures has dropped CJ Entertainment as its South Korean distributor for “Terminator Genisys,” the fifth installment in the “Terminator” series. The sci-fi action film prominently features top Korean star Lee Byung-hun as a T-1000 android.

CJ, which has been Paramount’s long-term releasing partner in Korea for more than a decade, revealed the news on Thursday. It previously announced the film on its 2015 distribution slate and included “T5” in a showreel during October’s Busan festival.

“The decision [not to release “Terminator Genisys” through CJ] was made by Paramount last month as the studio has changed its international distribution strategy for the film,” said CJ.

It is not clear which company will take its place.

“Rights to ‘Terminator Genisys’ are being sold in Korea. We have a tremendous partner coming aboard and will confirm their association with the project shortly,” a Paramount spokesman in Los Angeles told Variety, without elaboration.

“The CJ news was a shock for us as well,” Lee’s agent Charles Pak, told Variety.

With a 25% market share and a mixed slate of local and Hollywood movies, CJ is by far the most powerful distributor in Korea – the world’s sixth largest theatrical market.

“CJ has long handled Paramount films’ Korean releases. However, it does not necessarily mean that all Paramount features will be released through us,” said CJ. Lotte Entertainment handled “World War Z” in Korea last year, while Woori Networks handled “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

CJ also insisted that Paramount’s “T5” decision was not connected to the major sex and blackmail scandal that has engulfed Lee in Korea.

In August last year Lee filed charges against two female entertainers, a fashion model and a singer, for seeking to extort $5 million from him. The case ended on Thursday with a Seoul court handing prison sentences to the two women.

The verdict did not really vindicate Lee, and the case has left his reputation in tatters. The women had threatened to release a video clip of the three exchanging lewd jokes, and appearing to confirm an adulterous relationship. The women insisted that Lee had initiated the relationship and offered them money.

The releases of two other Lee-starring Korean-language films — “Inside Men” (Showbox) and “Memories of the Sword” (Lotte Entertainment) — are currently undated. The latter was previously scheduled to open in December last year.

Before the scandal erupted, Lee’s star had been on the rise. Early in his career, Lee may have been cast for his looks and physique, but in the last two years his skills as an actor, most notably in “I Saw The Devil” and “Masquerade,” saw him collect numerous performance nominations and awards.

It seems unlikely, however, that the scandal will dent his international career, which now includes four Hollywood films: the two “G.I. Joe” franchise pictures, “RED 2” and “T5.”

As far as [Lee’s] other movies go, they are still doing post and do not have specific dates as of yet, but are due to release this year,” said Pak. “Our emphasis on film has been and will stay the same. Regardless of country we are looking for the best projects with a great story, director, and actors.”