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SEOUL — One on One, the latest work by Cannes-winning South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk, made its market debut at the French film festival last week. But whether the film will be available outside of South Korea on DVD will depend on its success back home, specifically whether 100,000 moviegoers see it in theaters first.
Kim released a statement Monday that he won’t be selling distribution rights for the secondary market unless the film surpasses the break-even point at home. One on One, about seven murder suspects crossing paths with a terrorist group, is set to open in roughly 50 theaters in Korea on Thursday.
“The film will need to bring in 100,000 admissions so that I can confidently pay the cast and crew, who took part in the project without any guarantee,” said Kim about the film that stars such renowned actors as Don Lee (aka Ma Dong-seok). “Payback is the only way I can continue to make meaningful movies. And so One on One won’t be going for sale for secondary markets until it brings in 100,000 viewers.”
The decision, moreover, stems from a fear of piracy. “Pirated versions start circulating the moment a movie is released through the secondary market,” said the filmmaker, who is no stranger to the issue. His 2011 Arirang wound up online after it was shown on an Italian television network, and the Cannes-winning film never made it to Korean cinemas.
While the most successful box office hits in Korea have had more than 10 million admissions — about a fifth of the country’s population of 50 million — local indie/arthouse fare consider 1,000-10,000 admissions a blockbuster performance.
Kim’s most successful film to date is Bad Guy, which recorded some 700,000 admissions. He has enjoyed better luck as a producer, with Rough Play bringing in more than 1.3 million viewers.
Meanwhile, the director is currently working on an international version of the film, which, according to its producer Kim Soon-mo, will most likely have a shorter running time than the local edition.
Sales banner company Finecut, which handled sales for Kim’s signature work including Moebius, is representing One on One at the Cannes Film Market. Finecut has sold Rough Play to Hong Kong/Macau (Sundream) and Taiwan (AV Jet) and pre-sold the film biz drama to Japan (The Klockworx) and Malaysia/Brunei (Hwa Yea Multimedia).
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