“Time to Hunt,” the Korean action thriller that had its world premiere last month as a gala screening at the Berlin Film Festival, has given up its theatrical release plans. Instead, it will be released by streaming giant Netflix in mid-April.
The move has not sat easily with Contents Panda, the Korean sales company which had pre-sold the film to more than 30 overseas distributors. “Contents Panda will take legal action with (producer) Little Big Pictures to minimize the international damage that will be caused by this case,” Contents Panda said in a statement sent to Variety.
The film was directed by Yoon Sung-hyun (“Bleak Night”) and tells a revenge tale of four no-hopers in a dystopian near future who pick the wrong target to rob. It pulls together a cast of rising star youngsters including Lee Je-hoon, Ahn Jae-hong, Choi Woo-shik, Park Jeong-min and Park Hae-soo.
The film’s planned Korean commercial release shortly after its Berlin debut was repeatedly delayed by the disruption to cinemagoing in the country caused by the spread of the coronavirus. Little Big Pictures, which was the film’s principal financier and its local distributor, took the decision to go straight to online instead.
“After a long wait, we are pleased to announce that we have decided to simultaneously release “Time to Hunt” to 190 countries around the world through Netflix. With the danger of the Covid-19 virus continuing to spread and the global outbreak continuing, we decided to make this decision in the hope that it would be the most effective and a way to introduce our work to more audiences. ” The company said that the film would be released exclusively by Netflix, from April 10, 2020, with 29 sub-titled language versions.
“Contents Panda signed a world sales rights agreement with Little Big Pictures as of January 24, 2019 and have been executing our duties for over a year. We have made the record of pre-sales in over 30 countries, and was looking at concluding agreements with (distributors in a further) 70 countries. Furthermore, we successfully launched ‘Time to Hunt’ worldwide at the Berlinale,” Content Panda said in its statement. “It would have been possible for Littlebig Pictures to discuss such a decision in advance, and come up with an alternative solution, such as dividing the theatrical release and streaming territories, or finding the best timing for worldwide release. This is a serious issue that can lead to international disputes, since it ignores the legitimate rights secured by global film companies.”
Little Big Pictures had a ready reply. “We have been in touch with Contents Panda to ask for co-operation for the past two weeks. We were going to offer them the maximum compensation that is affordable from our end, and asked Contents Panda to convey the same message to the film’s foreign buyers. (Contents Panda) however, kept refusing to compromise and we had no other way than to unilaterally notify expiration of the contract. For a sales agency it might be a small loss, but for us it is a matter of life and death,” Kwon Ji-won, head of Little Big Pictures told Variety by email. “We hope to reach a peaceful settlement but in case that isn’t possible, we cannot but go to law. If we’re sued, we also plan to take legal action.”
Sonia Kil in Seoul also contributed to this report.