Cannes: Competition Entry 'The Handmaiden' Best-Selling Korean Film of All Time

Courtesy of CJ Entertainment
'The Handmaiden'

The lesbian thriller from Park Chan-wook has sold to 175 territories, beating out 'Snowpiercer' to become the most widely distributed Korean film in history.

The Handmaiden, the South Korean thriller vying for the Cannes Palme d'Or, has sold out worldwide, with CJ Entertainment on Thursday announcing deals in 175 territories.

This means Park Chan-wook's lesbian period thriller is the best-selling Korean film of all time, beating out the previous sales record of Bong Joon-ho's English-language sci-fi feature Snowpiercer.

Even before its Cannes premiere, the film had already pre-sold to about 120 countries at the American Film Market, in Berlin's European Film Market and Hong Kong's Filmart. Amazon Studios has U.S. rights and will bow the movie, via a still unnamed theatrical partner, stateside in September. The Handmaiden is set to hit French theaters in October under the title Mademoiselle, which is a direct translation of the original Korean title Agasi, which means "Miss."

The Korean-language drama, about a young orphan girl hired by a con man to win the trust — and eventual love — of a wealthy heiress, will get a global theatrical rollout via indie distributors across Europe, Latin America and Asia. 

"We've had an explosive amount of inquiries from foreign buyers following the official screening of The Handmaiden at Cannes on Saturday," says Kini Kim, exec vp international at CJ. "We can attribute the success of the sales to director Park Chan-wook's international reputation as well as the artistry of the film."

The phenomenal sales beats the record of 167 territories previously held by Snowpiercer, which Park produced for director Bong Joon-ho.

"Snowpiercer starred top global stars like Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, which gave it more of an international appeal. So it's doubly meaningful that The Handmaiden attracted so many buyers in spite of the language barrier," said a spokesperson for CJ.

The Handmaiden, chosen among the top 10 Cannes titles in a mid-festival review by The Hollywood Reporter film critics, is slated to open in Korea on June 1.