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S. Korea's CGV to Open Its 1st Theater in US as Competitors Enter the Chinese Market

2006/02/11 Source

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By Nigel DSa
Editor / Staff Writer

In an unprecedented move, CJ-CGV, the nation's leading exhibitor will open a three-screen, 360-seat movie theater in the MaDang, a busy shopping complex in Los Angeles' Korea Town district.

The theater is scheduled to open in June 2007 and will feature first-run releases of new Korean films with English subtitles, as well as Hollywood and Asian movies with Korean subtitles.

This marks the first foray of its kind into the vast and lucrative US entertainment market. The venture will be seen as a test-base for future such operations. While American audiences are not yet familiar with Asian screen stars, CJ-CGV is banking on the large Korean immigrant population in LA, predicting a market potential of 1 million people.

The move could provide a significant boost to the number of South Korean film exports to the US, which last year were worth about US$2 million, or 2.7 percent of total movie exports.

The announcement comes on the heels of the South Korean government's decision to halve the screen quota system so as not to hamper FTA talks with the US. With less protection for the domestic film market, CGV's initiative brings a note of optimism to the disheartened Korean film industry.

Meanwhile, CGV's domestic rival Megabox Cineplex plans to open its second theater in Beijing, China this October. While the Chinese film market is small, with only 2500 screens for a population of 1.3 billion people, the low costs of opening a theater and the long-term market potential make it a promising investment.

MK Pictures, a South Korean producer and distributor, has also moved into the Chinese market, forming a joint venture last year with China's Eastern Dragon Film and distributor Beijing Poly Bona Film to operate multiplexes in China. The three expect a government license within two months to acquire a newly built theater in Chongqing, southwest China. MK has plans for another theater in Shenzen, thereby securing a network to distribute its films.

China, however, has stiff measures to protect its local film industry. Under its current screen quota, theaters must give Chinese films 66.6 ppercent of annual screen time. By comparison, Korea's screen quota will be reduced to 20 percent from its current 40 percent starting July 1st.

Nigel DSa, who serves as editor and writer for The Seoul Times, was born in London. After moving to Toronto at age 8 he earned his BA in English Literature at the University of Ottawa. He completed a second degree in Film Production at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. He also teaches at Hanyang University in Seoul. He also contributes to various publications as film journalist.

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