Leading Korean studio Lotte Entertainment will produce a Korean-language remake of Mexican comedy blockbuster “Instructions Not Included.” The group has partnered with Lionsgate-affiliated Globalgate Entertainment, which is developing local-language versions of the Eugenio Derbez-directed picture.
“In addition to distribution rights, our sales and acquisitions businesses, we also see the growing importance of remake deals and international co-productions,” said Justin Choi, GM of Lotte’s international marketing and distribution department. “The demand is growing.”
After a couple of years in a slump, Lotte has returned to the forefront of Korean cinema, propelled by the sensational pan-Asian success of “Along With the Gods: The Two Words” in 2017. Its simultaneously produced sequel, “Along With the Gods: The Last 49 Days,” was also huge hit this year. It earned $90.8 million in Korea alone.
The company unveiled its 2019 lineup at an event on the margins of the Busan International Film Festival this week, and has high hopes that “Divine Fury” can do “Gods”-like business next year. Directed by Jason Kim (“Midnight Runners”), “Divine Fury” is the story of a champion martial artist who has no religion, but becomes an exorcist after stigmata develops on his hands. Currently in production, it stars rising star Park Seo-jun and veteran Ahn Sung-ki.
“The interest from international buyers is enormous,” Choi told Variety. “Chinese buyers account for almost 40% of our meetings. The demand for the film’s ancillary rights is high, since Korean films do not receive theatrical release in China these days.”
The company’s new lineup also includes a sequel to its 2014 hit, “The Pirates,” as well as “Tazza: One-Eyed Jacks,” the third installment of the iconic “Tazza” crime drama series. Kim Joung-hoon (“Accidental Detective”) will direct the new “Pirates.” Kwon Oh-kwang (“Collective Invention”) directs the new “Tazza” film.
Other titles include human drama “The Witness,” 1940-set drama “MAL-MO-E: The Secret Mission” and costume drama “Astronomy,” which veteran Hur Jin-ho will direct.
Lotte Entertainment was spun off from the parent company Lotte Shopping in June this year and has become a part of new company Lotte Cultureworks, which spans film exhibition, investment, distribution and stage musical production. Under a unified entertainment sector management, the group is now looking harder at expansion outside Korea.
It is looking at starting local-language film production in Indonesia and Vietnam, where it is developing cinema exhibition operations. In Vietnam and China, Lotte has a string of some 45 multiplexes. It will open its first multiplex in Indonesia at the end of the month. A diversification into TV production is also under active consideration.
“As well as presenting high quality on-stage contents such as musicals and concerts and strengthening the service on our OTT platform Seechu, we will also start producing TV series,” said CEO Cha Won-chun. He was speaking at the launch party in Busan on Saturday.
Diversification could help mitigate the effect of a slowing theatrical business in Korea. The industry’s annual box office revenue is struggling to exceed $1.8 billion (KRW 2 trillion) and 200 million admissions, while international streaming platforms such as Netflix and YouTube are aggressively targeting Korea’s online market. “The market is competitive. But without new initiatives, there will be little room for us to grow further,” said Choi.