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Seoul to get ‘Film Forum’

There is good news for local film lovers who are feeling increasingly frustrated by the lack of diversity in Korea’s booming cinema industry.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced plans to create a film center, which will be the city’s equivalent to New York’s Film Forum, by 2018.

Tentatively named “Cinematheque,” the envisioned film center will be constructed on a site currently used as a public parking lot in Chungmuro, a district in central Seoul known as the birthplace of the country’s movie industry. 

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon wants to turn the city into an attractive filming location for blockbuster productions like “Avengers” and “Star Trek.” (Seou Metropolitan Government)
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon wants to turn the city into an attractive filming location for blockbuster productions like “Avengers” and “Star Trek.” (Seou Metropolitan Government)

“We will invest about 20 billion won ($18 million) for the project. We are working hard to get Cinematheque ready no later than early 2018. It will accommodate theaters, an archive center, a movie museum and other places that moviegoers find interesting,” Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon told a press conference Wednesday.

Although Korea’s movie industry as a whole is having a renaissance, independent filmmakers are being left out in the cold amid insufficient support and investment, Seoul officials explained.

Cinematheque is part of the city’s efforts to build more robust infrastructure for the film industry.

Aside from the construction of the film center, the city also vowed to establish what it calls “Movie Fund” to support independent filmmakers and build both indoor and outdoor film sets.

The mayor stressed that he wants to turn Seoul into an attractive filming location for foreign movie productions.

“As evidenced by the upcoming blockbuster ‘Avengers’ location shoot in Seoul, we have continued solid interagency coordination. We are going to make Seoul the best place for shooting films,” he said.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” a sequel to Marvel’s superhero flick, will hit local theaters on April 23, eight days before its American premiere. Some of the scenes were filmed in Seoul last April.

Seoul is also likely to be featured in another Hollywood blockbuster, “Star Trek 3,” slated for a 2016 premiere. The date of the Seoul shoot has not yet been revealed.

Korean filmmakers who attended the press conference hailed the plan.

“I have spent decades trying to build Cinematheque. In fact, I was frustrated a lot when things were getting nowhere. Now I can see the light at the end of tunnel,” said Park Chan-wook, a renowned Korean film director who won a Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

“I was among the last generation who made films at Chungmuro. Seeing the neighborhood turning into a breeding ground for the next filmmakers, I feel like our legacy is being passed on to the next generations,” he said.

Seoul plays a major role in the Korean film industry. It accounts for 62 percent of revenue and 21 percent of theaters in Korea, according to the Korea Creative Content Agency.

By Yeo Jun-suk (jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)
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