Movie officials confident ‘Avengers’ will be a boost

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Movie officials confident ‘Avengers’ will be a boost


Marvel Studios signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday with five Korean organizations - Korea Tourism Organization, Korean Film Council (Kofic), Seoul Film Commission, Gyeonggi Film Commission and Goyang Industry Promotion Agency - for the shooting of the next Avengers movie, “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” in Seoul and Gyeonggi.

Sentiments range far and wide, divided between those who are in full support and those who view the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s incentives, reimbursing Marvel for 30 percent of the production costs incurred in Korea, as a waste of money.

The fact stands, however, that the contract marks the biggest foreign production to be filmed here.

The filming schedule, which begins March 30 along Mapo Grand Bridge, includes some of the busiest parts of town, including Gangnam Boulevard and Mapo and Cheongdam bridges.

While the city government will hold an official press conference on Monday to announce in detail the traffic management strategies, with an estimated 72 bus lines to be affected, it is safe to say that the effects of the MOU will be felt by nearly all who reside in the city.

“From the government’s point of view, it is regrettable that inconveniences will occur for the citizens, but the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism was adamant that it needed to boost Korea’s brand image,” said Park Dae-woo from the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s culture and tourism department.

“Up until now, Hollywood has portrayed Korea as this obscure place from the ’60s or as North Korea,” said Park. “This time, the ministry is really pushing for South Korea to be portrayed as medically advanced and a leader in IT.”

There is actually a clause about this in the MOU, with Marvel promising to portray Korea as “a high-tech, modern country and shall avoid portraying the Republic of Korea in any negative manner.”

For now no official amount has been announced for how much changing the bus schedules and closing busy streets and bridges will cost, but Park said that there would be “no major costs incurred, just a lot of rerouting.”

In the face of criticism that maybe Seoul City is offering too much, too willingly, Park said that it is about looking beyond the obvious.


“Although it may look like we are giving more than we’re getting on the surface, underneath there are a lot of benefits to be gained,” he said. “For example, around 300 people will be hired here on location and they will need around 1,500 extras.”

Kim Young-gu, the location incentive project manager at Kofic, said that Korean cinema will also get a boost from this handout.

“Not only does this opportunity provide jobs, but it’s also a way to learn from Hollywood and to network, too,” Kim added.

Kofic said it expects an increase of about 620,000 tourists once the film is released, equating into around 87.6 billion won ($81.4 million) more in spending.

While Kim agreed that it was ultimately up to the director to determine the cuts that make it into the film as well as the duration, Kim said he was confident that Marvel would do the right thing by Korea.

“We don’t get a say in the production process, but because of the scale of help we are offering it’s implied that there will be a significant amount of footage filmed here [in the movie],” said Kim.

“There have been reports that filming will bring in 2 trillion won, which I think is stretching the truth a bit too far,” said film critic Oh Dong-jin. “But at the same time, I don’t believe that the city is spending an inordinate sum.

“If you compare what the ministry has done to the West, it’s a pretty standard offering. Look at places like Montreal or France, they offer a lot of incentives to foreign filmmakers. It’s because there definitely is an intangible value in having a movie shot there.”

The real problem, as Oh sees it, is not so much the costs but the fact that Korea is jumping on the bandwagon too late.

In order to evaluate the success of the city’s handle on the situation, Oh said only time will tell.

“Hopefully citizens will cooperate. How they accept the situation will determine the outcome,” he said.

By carla sunwoo []

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