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Mixed reaction for Fox’s foray into local market

Major American film studio announces plans to invest and distribute K-films

Following Fox International Productions’ announcement of its foray into the Korean film market as a distributor and investor last month, there are mixed reactions here to the possible changes to be brought to the scene.

An international production umbrella unit of America’s major film production house Fox Filmed Entertainment, FIP produces and distributes local language films around the globe. Known as one of the world’s largest producers and distributors of motion pictures, Fox’s blockbusters include “Avatar,” “Titanic” and “Star Wars.”

In an interview with a local broadcaster last month, FIP president Sanford Panitch said, “Ideally for Fox, we’d like to be the distributor of the films and to be the primary investor of the movies. And that’s our goal for the next set of films we’d make in Korea.”

Panitch’s announcement came two years after FIP participated as one of the investors for director Na Hong-jin’s thriller “The Yellow Sea” in 2010.

According to Paul Huh, creative executive at Fox’s Seoul branch, FIP is planning to participate in making two or three Korean films this year. He said the company’s primary target is local viewers in Korea, though Fox has a distribution network worldwide. 
A scene from 2010 movie “Hwanghae (The Yellow Sea),” in which Fox International Productions was one of the investors. (Showbox/Mediaplex)
A scene from 2010 movie “Hwanghae (The Yellow Sea),” in which Fox International Productions was one of the investors. (Showbox/Mediaplex)

“Unlike local major production and distribution houses like CJ or Lotte, we are not required to make a certain number of films for this year’s lineup,” Huh told The Korea Herald. “We are making our first steps, starting with two or three films.”

Huh also said the company is interested in working with new talent in Korea, mentioning how Fox’s first Chinese-language film, “Hot Summer Days” (2010), was directed by rookie director Tony Chan Kwok-Fai.

“I think we are bringing another option for local film producers, rather than a change to the Korean film scene,” Huh told The Korea Herald. “Even if our movies don’t do well box office-wise in Korea, we have our international distribution network for second chances in foreign markets. All in all, I think this will help boost Korea’s film industry.”

However, Daniel D.H. Park, who works as the director of the International Promotion Center of the state-run Korea Film Council, said he isn’t quite sure if the upcoming Fox-produced movies will necessarily do well overseas.

“Most foreign language films are often just considered art house movies overseas,” Park told The Korea Herald. “A lot of Korean films are simply released as DVDs in foreign countries, if they don’t secure spots in theaters. I think with Fox’s distribution network, however, it won’t be hard for the movies to be opened in theaters. But this doesn’t necessarily guarantee box office success.”

Meanwhile, film producer Won Dong-yeon, who also serves as the vice president of the Korean Film Producers Association, said he was delighted by the news. His production house, Realize Pictures, is currently shooting “King of Joseon,” a historical epic starring actor Lee Byung-hun, with CJ Entertainment ― one of the three major local film production and distribution houses along with Lotte and Showbox/Mediaplex. The capital concentration of the three companies has been often raised as a problem in the Korean film industry.

“We producers sometimes wonder whether we are making films for our viewers or our investors,” he told The Korea Herald. “Whether they are local or foreign, investors influence your production process. That’s inevitable. I think Fox will bring more diversity and money into our market, which will eventually create more opportunities for quality film projects. I think there’s more to gain than lose.”

By Claire Lee (