[ENTERTAINMENT]Big overseas hope for small local film

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Big overseas hope for small local film

Will Korea's movie magic work in the West, too? Everyone will soon find out because the biggest Korean film of the year thus far was been picked up for U.S. distribution.

"Jibeuro" (The Road Home) has been sold to Paramount Pictures, a major Hollywood distributor.

Tube Pictures and CJ Entertainment announced May 16 that they signed a contract with Paramount Pictures on "exceptionally favorable" terms, selling the film for $230,000 and a 60-percent share of sales profits.

According to Catherine Park, in charge of overseas sales at Ison Communications, the film's promotion agency, it is the first time that a Korean film was sold for cash plus a profit-percentage.

The contract also specifies that the film will open within the year in least 10 cities, including New York and Seattle.

The film was shot for the relatively low budget of 1.3 billion won ($1 million), but has attracted 3.6 million viewers on the peninsula since its opening on April 5. It is on track to beat "The Lord of the Rings" and become the biggest film of the year within a week.

Paramount Pictures also committed to lay out $3 million in marketing, packaging the film as a family flick for this Christmas. UPI will release the film in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia.

It is not the first time that a Korean film has been released in American theaters, though. "Shiri" (1997) first made the breakthrough earlier this year. While generating some success around Asia, its U.S. release was disappointing, earning only $100,000 at 10 theaters. It was originally scheduled to be released in October 2001, but its violent action themes were considered too close to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the release was delayed four months.

In addition, Oh Ga-won, a sales agent at Kang Je-gyu Film, complained that the overseas deal did not go smoothly. There were many bureaucratic hurdles placed in the way, insurance problems and other details, all of which made sending the film abroad very difficult.

But things have changed. "The Road Home" is considered something of a hot property, Ms. Park said, with several major Hollywood distributors, Sony Pictures, Miramax Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures, all vying for the rights.

"The Road Home" has also been sold to Twin Pictures in Japan for $130,000 and China Star. According to Ms. Park, a deal is close to being signed with Hong Kong also.

Paramount Pictures has tentatively scheduled to open "The Road Home" for the Christmas season, just in time for families. Paramount Pictures supposedly has high expectations for the film, in part because its family theme has been more valued since Sept. 11.

Like how the Iranian film "Children of Heaven" (1997), directed by Majid Majidi, received a nomination for best foreign film at the Academy Awards that year along with box office success, some are even expecting the same success for "The Road Home."

by Chun Su-jin

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