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Culture minister mulls screen quota for independent films

Culture Minister Park Yang-woo on Monday said the government is considering steps to prevent blockbuster films from monopolizing screens.

Park, who took helm of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism earlier this month, emphasized the importance of producing and screening diverse movies.

“From a long-term perspective, it is essential to have variety in films. In order for Korean films to grow in the international market, many different types of quality films should be produced,” Park said during a meeting with reporters at Sejong Government Complex. “We are standing at a crossroads.”

Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Park Yang-woo speaks to reporters at Sejong Government Complex on Monday. (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)
Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Park Yang-woo speaks to reporters at Sejong Government Complex on Monday. (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)

He went on to say that the ministry is considering limiting the number of screens per film -- a possible reference to complaints that a handful of blockbuster movies have been effectively monopolizing local theaters.

Last year, “Avengers: Infinity War” sparked debate on the matter when it was shown on 2,553 of the total of 2,800 screens, more than any other film in the history of Korean cinema.

Park stressed the importance of procuring screens to show art films and independent films, which he said should be approached differently from commercial ones.

“When we’re talking about independent films or art films, not only are they important in terms of having variety in our culture, but also in terms of being a fundamental asset to art. Yet, they are unlikely to survive if we leave it to the market,” he said. “I believe the government should take responsibility for them, supporting their production and screening, so that the audience can get a chance to see them.”

The minister added that measures -- such as allocating a certain percentage of screens to smaller films during peak hours -- would be specified in a comprehensive plan for the film industry to be announced early next month.

The big three multiplex cinema chains of CJ CGV, Megabox and Lotte Cinema account for over 90 percent of all screens and seats in Korea. CJ Group and Lotte Group are also major players in the investment and distribution of films, which has sparked off complaints that they effectively monopolize the local film industry.

It was also the reason many in the movie industry had publicly opposed Park’s nomination as culture minister, as he had previously held the post of nonexecutive director of CJ ENM, the entertainment and retail branch of the CJ Group.

Meanwhile, a screen quota bill is pending at the National Assembly. Park met with film industry representatives last week to discuss the issue. He has vowed to make efforts.

On Monday, Park reiterated the ministry’s previous position to make efforts toward inter-Korean cultural exchanges -- such as joint excavations and research of the ancient Goryeo and Goguryeo kingdoms -- and to jointly publish a dictionary that encompasses the vocabularies of both Koreas.

Park is a culture policy veteran with over 30 years of experience in the field. He served as a vice minister before he retired 11 years ago and became an art management professor at Chung-Ang University.

By Yoon Min-sik