The deal was unveiled Wednesday jointly by Gaumont and the film’s Korean distributor-financier Next Entertainment World. The film premiered in the midnight screening section of the Cannes festival in May and attracted immediate sales and remake interest. Fox and Sony were among the Hollywood studios known to have pursued a deal. Bidders also included Studiocanal and EuropaCorp, two French companies that regularly produce English-language genre fare.
“We are more than happy to start our business with Gaumont, one of the greatest film companies with rich experience in terms of global projects. We hope this opportunity could let Korean films get more attention and be familiar with the audience all over the world,” said Kim Woo-taek, CEO of NEW.
In Korea, the film was seen as an allegory for the turbulent political situation currently gripping the coountry, and became a smash hit. Now the year’s top grossing film, it has amassed $80.5 million since its July release.
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The original film, directed by animator Yeon Sang-ho making his live-action debut, was set inside a high-speed train from Seoul to Busan. Sources close to the deal told Variety that political allegories of a different kind may emerge.
Gaumont’s CEO Sidonie Dumas said the company had been “chasing the remake since Cannes Film Festival where the whole team loved it so much.”
“We’re excited to start working on the U.S. adaptation that will mark our first foray into English-language moviemaking in Los Angeles,” added Dumas.
Key staff, cast and production schedules have not yet been confirmed.
Cecile Gaget, Gaumont’s head of international production and distribution who negotiated the deal with Danny Lee and Vincent Kim at Contents Panda, said Gaumont is currently packaging the film and has already been approached by several Hollywood talent agencies and prominent directors.
The film will be set in the U.S. with Gaumont’s L.A.-based branch handling the production. Gaumont has just made a key appointment at its Los Angeles office to oversee English-language productions.
The U.S. remake of “Night to Busan” fits into Gaumont’s new ambition to expand its footprint globally with French- and English-language movies, tapping into the network of talent and producers it has developed in the U.S. through Gaumont’s Los Angeles-based international TV division, whose credits include “Narcos” and “Hannibal.”
The deal with Gaumont also includes French-language rights, although the company is not planning a French version.