CJ E&M aims to become global film production studio

By Rumy Doo
  • Published : Sept 13, 2017 - 14:49
  • Updated : Sept 13, 2017 - 14:49

Contents conglomerate CJ E&M plans to aggressively expand global film production, the company announced at a press conference Wednesday.

CJ E&M, the largest film distributor in Korea, plans to produce and distribute 20 films per year in foreign markets by 2020. Currently, the company funds and distributes some 10 to 15 films in Korea each year.

“The Korean movie market has reached saturation point,” said Jeong Tae-sung, CEO of CJ Entertainment, the company’s movie arm, in a presentation at The Plaza Hotel in central Seoul.

Jeong Tae-sung, CEO of CJ Entertainment, speaks to reporters at The Plaza Hotel Seoul in Jung-gu, Wednesday. (CJ E&M)

The local film market has remained stagnant at about 4 trillion won ($3.55 billion) since around 2014, according to the Korean Film Council. With a continued low birthrate nationwide, the key movie-going population -- those in their 20s and 30s -- is in decline, further dampening prospects for the film market.

CJ Entertainment aims to grow into a global production studio, moving beyond just exporting completed Korean films or selling rights for remakes.

“Hollywood has a global distribution system. Its films do not face cultural barriers in any part of the world. But when Korean films are exported as they are, it is not easy (for local viewers) to overcome the language and culture barriers,” said Jung.

Chinese companies have been aggressively acquiring theater chains and production studios around the world. “We cannot compete with that,” Jung said.

However, the Korean film industry’s strength lies in its creative power, according to Jung, and CJ Entertainment has seen success in the last few years in making and distributing Korean film remakes abroad.

Music drama “August Rush,” co-produced with US-based Southpaw Entertainment, in 2007 was CJ Entertainment’s first foreign production effort.

Since then, the company has produced 23 films in six countries -- the US, China, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand.

The 2014 comedy-drama “Miss Granny,” directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, has been deemed a “killer” format that has enjoyed pan-Asian popularity.

“It has family, comedy, music, youth -- elements that all Asian countries can relate to,” said Im Myung-joon, CJ Entertainment’s head of its international division.

“20 Once Again,” the Chinese remake of “Miss Granny” (CJ Entertainment)

“Sweet 20,” the Vietnamese remake of “Miss Granny” (Starvision Plus)

Shim Eun-kyung stars in 2014 hit comedy “Miss Granny.” (CJ Entertainment)

Its Vietnamese remake “Sweet 20,” released in 2015, became the second most viewed Vietnamese film there. “Let Hoi Decide 2” (2015) and “The Girl From Yesterday” (2017), both produced jointly by CJ and Vietnamese companies, score among the top 10 local films at Vietnamese box offices.

The Chinese remake of “Miss Grannny,” “20 Once Again” (2015) was co-produced by CJ Entertainment and became the most-viewed Korea-China co-production.

The company‘s next target is Turkey, where it established a regional office in May. “Hot, Sweet & Sour,” a remake of “A Wedding Invitation,” a CJ-China Film Group Corporation co-production, is set to open there at the end of this year. Remakes of Korean films “Spy” and “Miss Granny” are also in production.

In the US, CJ Entertainment plans to target the black and Hispanic population. “The trend is that mid- to low-budget movies are doing well these days, one example being this year’s horror film ‘Get Out.’ ... The black and Hispanic populations have great ticket (purchasing) power,” said Im. English and Spanish versions of “Miss Granny” are also in preparation.

Other films, such as “Sunny,” “Quick” and “My Annoying Brother,” are also geared for remakes in other countries.

“Gradually we will spread out to local original productions,” said Im.

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)