CJ's 'Weird' opening better than good

Distributor pins hopes Kim Jee-woon's film ends slump

Read THR's review of "The Good, the Bad, the Weird"

SEOUL -- Korea's biggest film distributor, CJ Entertainment, could have the territory's biggest hit of the year, as Kim Jee-woon's "The Good, the Bad, the Weird" jumped out to a huge opening day Thursday with more than 400,000 admissions.

CJ expects the film, a Korean spin on the spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone, to top 2 million admissions by Sunday night, making it the strongest opening for any film in 2008.

With a budget of about $17 million, "Weird" is one of the most expensive Korean films ever made. Given a prolonged industry slump, much is riding on its success.

"We hope that the film will jumpstart the Korean film industry and herald an exciting latter half of the year," said Mike Suh, CJ's head of international film financing and distribution.

So far in 2008, Korean movies have accounted for only 37% of the boxoffice, their smallest share since 2002.

Admissions in the first half of the year amounted to 70.5 million, the third-strongest on record, but are down 2% from 2007 and sharply below the 80 million admissions registered in first-half 2006.

This week, CJ closed North American distribution rights to IFC, which plans to open the film in the first half of 2009.

After making its world premiere at Cannes in May, "Weird" will make its North American debut Sept. 12 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

It has been presold in 11 territories, including the U.K. (Icon Film), France (ARP Selection), China (Huayi Brothers), Singapore (Innoform), Russia (Maywin Media), Turkey (Horizon International), Romania (Independenta), and Iran (Farabi).