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Warner Bros. to Expand Korean Film Production

Korean-language movies “Bad Lieutenant” and Lee Byung-hun starring “A Single Rider” are next up on the local language slate of Warner Bros.

The Hollywood studio’s Korean production drive is poised to get off to a dramatic start with Kim Jee-woon’s “The Age of Shadows,” which has its commercial release in South Korea in September and will bow at the Toronto festival.

The studio is seeking to expand its local-language production initiatives in the country and appointed local executive Jay Choi as head of local production in 2015.

Choi’s hiring predates the appointments of Monique Esclavissat as Warner’s executive VP of international production and acquisitions, and Marc Gareton as exec VP of international production in December last year.

“We are making Korean films for the Korean market,” said Esclavissat at a presentation in Seoul on Wednesday. “It is really a long term plan.”

Warner is already involved in production in other territories including Germany and Japan. “The logic is the same (in Korea), a strong market for content, put operations in place, our job is to support Choi,” said Gareton. “We’ve been in Korea for 27 years releasing Hollywood movies. We have some knowledge.”

“We have two titles in preparation, and then will look to make between 2-4 per year after that. It is more about how appropriate they are, than how many we have to make,” said Choi. “Local box office in Korea is highly material.” said Gareton.

Budgets will vary. The budget of “Shadows” is some KRW10 billion (approximately US$9 million,) with those expenses required to be recouped from the local market. Esclavissat said that all other distribution mechanisms are possible in markets outside Korea, with rights sales to third party distributors also conceivable.

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