Korean producer Sidus to self-distribute

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SEOUL -- Leading Korean producer Sidus FNH plans to distribute its own films beginning in November, a company official said Wednesday, a move that comes amid growing instability in a market plagued by overproduction and industrywide losses this year and last.

Up to now, Sidus FNH, which produced 12 films in 2006 including "A Dirty Carnival," "Tazza: The High Rollers" and "Like a Virgin," has distributed its films mostly through such local companies as CJ Entertainment and Showbox.

The long-rumored move into theatrical distribution comes on the heels of local press reports Monday that MK Pictures sold a controlling stake in its operations to Korea's SO Gangwon Broadcasting Network for 15 billion won ($16.3 million).

Despite the volatility of the South Korean market, it is still a rich prize, the world's fifth-largest theatrical market, worth 1.01 trillion won ($1.09 billion) in 2006, according to the Korean Film Council.

As buyout and merger rumors continue to swirl around several of Korea's leading movie companies, the industry will watch closely to see what effect, if any, Sidus FNH's independent distribution plans may have on CJ and Showbox.

Sidus' plans advance what many in the industry perceived as the company's earlier first step toward establishing a distribution arm when it launched two production funds in 2006 totaling roughly $65 million with Korean telecommunications firm KT Corp.

KT bought 51% of Sidus FNH for 28 billion won ($30 million) in late 2005.

Sidus FNH founder and co-CEO Tcha Seung-jai also is president of the Korea Film Producers Assn. and for the last two years made the top of the Power 50 lists published by local film weekly Cine21.

Founded in 1995 as Uno Film, the company changed its name to Sidus in 2000, and, in 2005, merged with Fun & Happiness Pictures to become Sidus FNH.
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