Busan: China's iQiyi Signs Exclusive Rights to 90 South Korean Films

Busan Scene - H 2014
Busan International Film Festival

The 2014 Asian Film Market saw a hike in the number of deals between Chinese and Korean companies

This year's Asian Film Market, the region's major platform for regional film projects, closed Tuesday with more meetings than ever, particularly between South Korean and Chinese companies.

As Chinese online video platform giants such as iQiyi and Youku Tudou took part in the market, there was a surge in deals between Chinese and Korean companies.

iQiyi, which forecast that online movie revenues will match that of the box office in five years, signed exclusive rights for approximately 40 films by Lotte Entertainment (which has been behind the year's biggest Korean box-office hits such as The Pirates) and 50 titles by Finecut (which handles international sales for films by local masters such as The Hill of Freedom by Hong Sang-soo and Revivre by Im Kwon-taek). iQiyi is known for streaming the smash hit Korean TV soap My Love From the Stars, which became the most watched series on its site.

"The presence of Chinese buyers and sellers has been noticeably strong this year. We have been receiving a lot of attention from Chinese buyers for films starring Korean actors who are extremely popular in China," Ryan Minyung Han, director of international investment and distribution at Lotte, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Showbox/Mediaplex has also been receiving more inquiries from Chinese companies following CEO Yoo Jeong-hun's announcement on Saturday about plans to set up a division in China early next year.

"There has been noticeable interest from Chinese companies after the announcement. We are aiming to take part in two Chinese films productions per year and is currently seeking a distribution partner," said Soojin Jung, vice president of international business at Showbox/Mediaplex. "We have signed several deals with Youku before and are looking for more international partnerships."

Chinese and Korean companies are also discussing co-production projects more proactively.

"There has been a hike of Chinese companies wanting specifically to pursue new collaboration projects involving Korean cast and crew, rather than simply buying local titles like before. There is more interest to do projects like Beautiful 2014," said, Miri Moon, manager of Mirovision. Beautiful 2014 is an omnibus film initiated by the Hong Kong International Film Festival in collaboration with Youku, featuring Korean filmmaker Kang Je-kyu.

Overall, the market saw an increase in meetings as a record number of participants, a total 1,566 badge-holders or a 23 percent increase from last year according to organizers. Many have showed interest in the booming Korean film market, particularly as one of the highly attended market events was a forum featuring the producers behind Korea's top 10 blockbusters.

"Following the groundbreaking record set by The Admiral: Roaring Currents, foreign guests have been making more inquiries than ever about the strong local performance of homegrown films," said Kini Kim, head of international sales at CJ Entertainment, about the maritime epic that has become the highest grossing film in Korean box-office history with almost $127 million (17.6 million admissions).

"Also, the market's earlier opening has enabled more buyers to participate this year, which is opening up more business opportunities for us. Lastly, the change in the regulation for obligatory purchases seems to be encouraging buyers to take part in more business meetings," Kim added.