Fortissimo inks deal with CJ Ent.

Pact covers areas ranging from distribution to development

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International sales and financing company Fortissimo Films and South Korean entertainment giant CJ Entertainment are joining forces, signing on for a deal that will cover areas ranging from distribution to development.

The partnership will provide CJ access to Fortissimo's library for distribution on CJ's television networks, video on-demand and digital platforms. It also will furnish the company first-look rights to distribute upcoming Fortissimo projects in its theaters and on its ancillary platforms.

The firms also are working on a pact that would see the two jointly develop, finance and produce new Asian-themed projects, though no formal deal is in place on that front.

Fortissimo execs touted the overall arrangement as significant because of the assurance that its pics will be distributed in a country that generally sees its pipeline packed with local and studio fare.

"The market over the years has become increasingly difficult to access," Fortissimo chairman Michael Werner said. "There's a narrow window of opportunity, and we feel this gives us a chance to take advantage of it."

Werner was not specific about the digital platforms Fortissimo films could appear on but did note that South Korea and CJ in particular are on the forefront of developing new technologies to distribute content.

Werner negotiated the deal with CJ's Katharine Kim, Mike Suh and Eric Kim, with negotiations between Werner and CJ's Miky Lee beginning before the April death of Fortissimo founder Wouter Barendrecht.

Fortissimo is a multinational firm with deep roots in Asia and Asian cinema. At AFM, it's selling rights to pics such as the Japanese 3D tale "The Shock Labyrinth" as well as the Cannes Japanese-language fable "Air Doll." On the English-language side, it's repping Todd Solondz's ensemble drama "Life During Wartime."

The company has few output deals as broad as the CJ pact, though it does have a distribution arrangement with E1 in Canada that shares some similarities with the deal announced Thursday.

CJ is a studio powerhouse in South Korea; among its recent films to gain international acclaim are the Cannes pics "Thirst" and "Mother," the latter of which is the South Korean entry at the Academy Awards.
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