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'D-War' set to make its way to American film market

2007/06/06 | 147 views | Permalink | Source

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"D-War", a sci-fi monster pic directed by Shim Hyung-rae, is finally set to hit both Korean and American theaters in August, its international sales and distribution partner Showbox said.

The effects-heavy movie, which was shot in Los Angeles, will be screened in about 1,500 theaters across the United States through Freestyle Releasing in late August, marking the biggest-ever release by a Korean flick.

The movie has sparked keen interest among local fans and critics because of its ambitious foray into the American market as well as its massive production budget. The film is estimated to have cost about $70 million, including all the special effects, developed by Younggu Art, a home-grown CGI company founded by director Shim.

But expectations are mixed: Some viewers who have seen the film's teaser clip have expressed worries about the cinematic quality, casting doubts on its commercial potential in the United States. Starring Jason Behr and Amanda Brooks, the English-language film is based on a Korean legend about a huge snake-like creature known as "imoogi". The serpent-like monster smashes its way through downtown Los Angeles in the hopes of finding the girl destined to transform it into a dragon.

Shim, once touted as a pioneering comedian-turned-director, has been trying to dispel lingering doubts about the film's commercial appeal, chiefly hurt by the launch schedule, which has been saddled with a series of delays.

Shim has already tried his hand once with a large-scale Korean monster film, titled "Yonggary", in 1999. It was touted as the most expensive Korean film at the time, with production costs of $10 million and a cast of American actors, and Shim expressed confidence about international success. Despite the hype, however, the film failed miserably at the local box office, never making its way into the American market.

The "D-War" project was first floated in February 2003, when Shim held a news conference and announced he would produce the film, with a production budget of $15 million, to be released in the summer of 2004.

In September 2003, Shim announced that he had signed a joint production deal with American company Side Street. Three months later, things were looking positive for his monster film project as he secured an investment of $15 million from U.S.-based Larkwood.

But Shim's original plan to release the film in the summer of 2004 turned out to be overly optimistic -- shooting in downtown Los Angeles was only completed in November 2004.

To the skeptical press, Shim made another pledge: a formal release of "D-War" in October 2005 in about 100 countries, to compete with "King Kong". Unfortunately, "King Kong" was not able to stage a showdown with the Korean monster because Shim's film was not ready yet -- again.

In March 2006, Shim inked a local distribution contract with Showbox, reminding the local media that his project was still under way. In an interview with a local broadcaster, Shim said that "D-War" would be completed in late May 2006 and that he expected it to be released in late November.

While the project suffered one delay after another, production costs soared from the original budget of $15 million to a whopping $70 million, stoking concerns among local filmmakers and critics.

"D-War" was finally unveiled at the American Film Market in November last year, showcasing plenty of special effects. Although Showbox said the film received rave reviews from participants at AFM, some reviews claimed that audiences seemed bored, adding to more confusion about the film's marketability.

Showbox said "D-War" will be released in Korea on Aug. 2 -- ahead of the American release, which is expected to reveal the real potential of the much-hyped monster flick and whether it will have a real chance of survival in the tough American market.

By Yang Sung-jin

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