Warner Bros. to Make Local Productions in South Korea (Exclusive)
Village Roadshow Pictures is also looking for original content in East Asia that will help reach the fast-growing local market led by China
Warner Brothers Pictures has plans to produce local projects for South Korean audiences, says Jun Oh, senior vp business affairs at the Hollywood studio.
"We are actually very interested in doing local Korean movies," Oh said on Tuesday during the International Content Conference (DICON), an annual media industry event hosted by the South Korean culture ministry in Seoul.
Recently, Fox began creating local productions in Korea. Its second project, Slow Video, performed relatively well at the Korean box office earlier this year, with 1.169 million admissions, following last year's Running Man, which garnered 1.4 million spectators.
"Warner Brothers is bigger than Fox in terms of local productions and produces works in Germany, Italy and Japan. Now we're eyeing China and Korea," Oh said. The reason for this is because Warner Bros. has been a "trend-conscious company."
"In the last decade the trend has been that U.S. movies have been going down in terms of box office in local markets. U.S. movies used to take up 60 percent of the market share in Korea, but now Korean movies are dominating," he said.
Indeed, so far this year local films grabbed 50.1 percent of the revenue while Hollywood titles took 45.3 percent; last year the figures were 59.7 percent and 35.5 percent, respectively. "We want to hit all the demographics and the territories that are big on moviegoing, and Korea is a top 10 moviegoing market," said Oh.
Village Roadshow Pictures, the Australian co-producer/co-financier group that has long collaborated with Warner Bros., is also looking to the Far East. In 2011 it launched an Asian branch for projects geared for China and has offered a handful of local titles, such as Stephen Chow's Journey to the West. Recently the company bought the rights for the 2013 hit Korean thriller Hide and Seek for a Chinese-language remake.
"Local Korean products have traveled well to Asian countries…. There is opportunity here. China is our focus, and it's the No.1 territory right now. Korea has such a mature [film culture], with production values that are so high that Korean films will travel well," sad Michael Lee, vp of Village Roadshow.
On the flip side, both executives hope that more U.S. remakes of locally popular Korean films will find success. Some of the most iconic titles hailing from Korea, such as Spike Lee's rendition of Park Chan-wook's Oldboy, did not live up to expectations.
"If you see films like The Departed [based on a Hong Kong film], it's directed by Martin Scorsese, so it's going to be a great movie regardless. But typically directors of that type don't want to do remakes. The Chris Nolans out there would want to do something original. I was surprised that Spike Lee wanted to do Oldboy, but it's [a genre] that is difficult to attract huge audiences," said Oh.
"My company has done [The Lake House, the U.S. version of Korean melodrama Il Mare] with Keanu Reeves. But only five or six Korean films have been remade so far [in the U.S.], and it isn't a big sample size. Give it time and it may work out," said Lee.