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Skyrocketing Screen Guarantees

2004/04/20 Source

by Gab-Sik Kim

The money is flowing in, but there is no one to act.

This is the current atmosphere at Choong Moo Ro (film district). According to the Bank of Korea, the movie industry's 2003 sales were some 3.7780 trillion won. This is a rapid growth with sales more than triple 1997's 1.2572 billion won. The "10 million boom" which started last year with "Silmido" and "Taegukgi" accelerated the capital influx, but actually, it is hard to cast an "A-level star". The actor/actress' guarantee naturally skyrockets and film producers sulkily say, "There is nothing left". Let's look into the increasing guaranteed trend of stars and the other side of it.

○ Movie Industry Sales of 3.7780 Trillion Won

Jun Ji-hyun, who starred in "My Sassy Girl", is currently picked as the highest guaranteed paid actress. She has a 400 million won guarantee for "Windstruck" which is scheduled to be released in June. If it wasn't for "iFilm", a subsidiary of "Sidus HQ", her management company, producing the movie, there were rumors that the guarantee would have been much higher.

Chung Hoon-tak, president of "Sidus HQ", said, "There was a new film production company who said they would give a billion won, but Jun Ji-hyun will not choose a film only by the amount of money involved". The producer's reliability or the film director's presentation ability decides whether the actor/actress will act in the film, and when considering the scale of the movie, he explained that the guarantee was settled on not exceeding 400 million won.

Choi Sung-min, president of "Uni-korea", the investor and producer of "Mermaid" and "Woman is the Future of Man", said, "The money has increased, but the 'blind money' type investments that were done in the past have disappeared. Even though the scenario and the director are good, it is not easy to persuade investors if there is no 'star power'". This is the reason why new film production companies which have not proved their production abilities are presenting enormous amounts and cling to the actor/actress.

○ Actor "Song Kang-ho", Actress "Jun Do-yun" Special Treatment

The actor currently receiving the highest guarantee pay is Song Kang-ho. He is guaranteed 500 million won for "South Side Diary", which will begin shooting soon, and a "plus α ", a running guarantee in which profits are distributed based on the box-office record. Choi Min-shik in "When the Blossoming Spring Comes" and Sul Kyeong-gu in "Yuk Do-san" each recorded "470 million + α" and 400 million won in guarantees.

Han Suk-kyu, who was called the "box-office certified check" and received a 500 million won guarantee for the first time in film history last year, received a 300 million won fixed guarantee with the new film "Scarlet Letter", totaling 500 million won altogether.

Surrounding these "special A-level" stars who possess the ticket power and acting ability are Park Joong-hoon, Chang Dong-gun, Kwon Sang-woo, Bae Yong-joon, Lee Jung-gae and Yu Oh-sung, who form the 350~400 million guaranteed A-level star group.

With the success of the film, "Reminiscence of Maljuk Street", and the drama, "Stairway to Heaven", Kwon Sang-woo became a casting target, and "easily" passed the 400 million level with the "400 million + α" guarantee for the new film, "Priest Lessons". Considering that he received 270 million won in "Maljuk Street.".., this is a dynamic rise.

Riding the "Taeguki" wind, Chang Dong-gun, Won Bin, and Bae Yong-joon, who made his debut in the movie industry with "Untold Scandal", are categorized to receive special A-level guarantees in the future with their previous successful results and commercialization in southeast Asia and Japan.

The thing which differs from the past is that the actor group which can get investment just by their name alone has grown, and that their guarantee has rose over 100 million won respectively.

As for actresses, Jun Do-yun, Jun Ji-hyun, and Chang Jin-young form the leading group with guarantees in the 300 million mark. Jun Do-yun recorded "330 million + α" in "Mermaid" and Chang Jin-young 300 million won in "Cheong-yeon". "Joint Security Area", "Present", and "One Fine Spring Day" 's Lee Young-ae also is expected to receive A-level treatment with the success of the drama "Dae Jang-gum" when starring in a film.

Ha Ji-won, Son Yae-jin, Kim Ha-nul, Kim Jung-eon, Lee Mi-yeon, Lee Mi-sook, Lee Eun-joo, Yum Jung-ah, and Moon Gun-young follow behind.

○ Running Guarantee Incites High Appearance Fees

The running guarantee rakes into the rise in the guarantee of actors/actresses. This "running guarantee" was first introduced when Han Suk-kyu acted in "Shiri", and has become general among the leading and the supporting actors/actresses.

However, "LJ Film" President Lee Sung-jae said, "The purpose of a running guarantee is to share the initial investment risks and when succeeding, to share the profits, but this is being misused. The current situation is that the actors/actresses are taking all of the guarantees and receiving the running guarantee as an 'extra'".

The guarantees of Lee Moon-shik, Sung Ji-roo and Lee Won-jong, so-called "star-level supporting actors", are sharply rising, too. Lee Moon-shik, who received 10 million won for "Dharma, Let's Play" (2001), received 100 million for the successive film "Dharma, Let's Go to Seoul", which was 10 times higher. The number of actors/actresses in both films is pretty much the same, but the guarantees jumped from the 600 million mark to the 1.3 billion won mark.

○ Guidelines from Film Director Kang Woo-suk

It is in interest to see whether the comparatively low guarantee and the no running guarantee contract principles that "Cinema Service" follows will be kept to at this time as the actors/actress' guarantees are continuously rising. This is actually setting forth "Director Kang Woo-suk's guidelines" for this company's distribution and production abilities. Among the many actors/actresses who starred in films produced by Cinema Service, Sul Kyeong-gu, who acted in "Silmido", received the highest amount with 350 million won. Sul Kyeong-gu and Cha Sung-won (300 million won), who stars in "The Ghost Lives", each could have received a 400 million level appearance fee, but submitted to a relative non-profit when choosing Cinema Service's film. The guarantee controversy may seem to be a puzzle that is hard to solve, but there are steps that can be considered. Chang Dong-gun received a fixed guarantee of 50 million won when starring in the film, "The Coast Guard" (Director Kim Ki-duk), a low budget movie with a net production expense of 700 million won, and a running guarantee to receive 500 won per person when the Seoul audience pass 500,000.

The net production expense for "Spider Forest" (Director Song Il-gon), releasing in June, was 1.45 billion won. Suh Jung received 40 million won of the 80 million won guarantee and will receive the rest when the film makes profits. "Fun Happy" President Kim Mi-hee said, "The solution is to connect the guarantee with the film's scale and budget. It is hard for a movie to profit with the current conditions in which the actor/actress' guarantee reaches 30 percent of the net production expense".

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