China's Huace to Buy Stake in South Korea's Next Entertainment World for $52.7 Million

Jang Kyungik - H
Kim Jae-hyun for The Hollywood Reporter

Jang Kyungik - H

The 15 percent stake along with a planned joint venture mark the biggest collaboration between film companies from the two countries

China's film/TV production and distribution company Huace Film & TV is about to become the second-largest shareholder in top South Korean film distributor Next Entertainment World (N.E.W.), the latter confirmed on Thursday.

The Zhejiang-based company inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU), pledging to pay $52.7 million for a 15 percent stake in N.E.W. Once finalized, this will be the first major collaboration between players in the film industries of Korea and China.

Chinese online platform giants such as Youku Tudou has collaborated with Korean giant Showbox/Mediaplex, but has yet to sign solid output deals. N.E.W. and Huace will also be launching a film joint venture.

"This is the beginning of a great partnership, and we are proud to say it is the biggest move yet for a Korean company concerning the Chinese film market. We will be creating a joint venture company together and hope to become true collaborators to invest, produce and distribute creative works," said N.E.W. president Jang Kyungik told The Hollywood Reporter.

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"We have been seeking ways to expand overseas for some while now, and Huace's [managing director and acting head] Zhao Yi Fang visited our Seoul office several times herself. We began discussing details of the collaboration since early September and are looking forward to finalizing the deal," said Steve Shin, senior manager at N.E.W.

Founded in 2008, N.E.W. quickly became Korea's most successful independent distributor. Last year, it shot up to become the country's second-biggest distributor with an 18 percent market share. Its legal drama The Attorney and comedy Miracle in Cell No. 7 are among the country's top 10 blockbusters of all time. So far this year, the company holds a 10.4 percent market share, helped by its erotic drama Obsession, while the thriller Sea Fog (a.k.a. Haemoo) has been chosen to be Korea's Oscar submission.

An increasing number of Chinese media companies are showing active interest in the Korean film industry, with  iQiyi, for example, has bought exclusive distribution rights to some 90 Korean titles at the Asian Film Market and Youku signing collaboration pacts with Busan International Film Festival and Korea's top film companies.