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Market share of local films leaps to 78%

2006/02/02 Source

With Korean filmmakers raising voices against the government's plan to halve the screen quota, the local market share of Korean films soared to 78.2 percent in January from 52.9 percent a year earlier, according to figures released yesterday.

It is the highest monthly market share since February in 2004 when Korean movies accounted for 82.5 percent of the domestic market due to the hit movie "Taegukgi: Brotherhood of War", said film distributor IM Pictures.

The overwhelming success of two local movies "The King and the Clown" and "My Boss, My Teacher" appears to have helped boost the market share of Korean films last month, IM Pictures stated. On the other hand, foreign movies failed to draw in the crowds apart from "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" released late last year. The monthly number of moviegoers also increased to 6.31 million in January, breaking the record of 5.48 million in the previous month.

The figures, however, does not seem to be easing filmmakers' adamant stance on the screen quota issue.

They have staged a sit-in protest since Wednesday, demanding the government cancel its plan to halve the number of days for screening local films. They also plan to hold a massive outdoor rally at Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, on Feb. 8.

The Finance Ministry set off an intense controversy last week, announcing the quota for local films will be halved from 146 days to 73 days per year beginning in July as a measure to accelerate bilateral free trade negotiations with the United States.

The screen quota system has helped local films secure screen space and survive in the highly competitive global film industry since its introduction in 1966.

But as domestic movies began to dominate the box office with over 50 percent of market share in recent years, the system touched off a perennial controversy between its advocates and opponents.

While Korean filmmakers insist that the cut in the quota will deal a fatal blow to domestic films in the battle against Hollywood blockbusters, the government claims that the domestic movie industry is ready to wean off from the protective policy. U.S. trade negotiators have been pushing Korea to cut the screen quota as a key precondition for a free trade agreement.

To prevent damage from the screen quota cut, the government promised to set up a fund worth 400 billion won over the next five years to boost the domestic movie industry, but filmmakers have been refusing to back down, expressing strong skepticism about the plan.

By Shin Hae-in

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