Of all the achievements that South Korean cinema has accomplished over the last decade its ability to go toe-to-toe with foreign juggernauts like Hollywood and keep it’s domestic products at the top of the heap has been its most remarkable feat. While its Asian neighbors struggle and fight against Hollywood hegemony only the South Korean film industry has consistently been able to produce content that are critical and/or commercial successes. A side effect to these glories though is that a split has formed within the industry, dividing blockbusters and small indie films into majority and niche markets.
Whereas Korea’s film industry in the 90’s was infused by a wellspring of ideas, from cheap genre pictures to arthouse fare, the current industry has had to pare down its pool of influences. Its domestic dominance has come at the loss of a lot of unique voices. Whereas a mere few years ago South Korean cinema was churning out some of the most inventive genre/arthouse fare playing in festivals all over the world currently South Korean cinema has been focusing more on producing a small number of big blockbuster fare. Of course, it is a natural thing for any national cinema to push for a wider global market but as a result chasing after such a wider audience has led to sometimes-derivative work.
To try and combat this it was announced by the Korean Film Producers Association (KFPA) a few days ago that ten South Korean production companies have come together to form a joint investment/distribution firm, Little Big Pictures. Veteran companies like Myung Films, Chungeorahm Film, JupiterFilm, and Filmmaker R&K have all put down $47,400 (50 million won) each to set up a co-operative company with future plans to bring in more members, round up about $1.9 million (2 billion won), and release three films a year.
As KFPA head and Myung Films CEO Lee Eun said when asked for a comment:
“Little Big Pictures is a joint venture by the Korean film industry. We hope to lead the local film market toward a more reasonable and future-oriented direction by dividing profits in a fair way for production companies,"
With the grand trinity of CJ CGV, Lotte Cinema, and Showbox/Mediaplex commanding a 70 percent monopoly over the box office a majority of the content playing in theaters is produced by one of these three conglomerates. Aside from that, distribution companies often get slapped with digital projector lease fees. Hopefully this new development will result in a return to the kind of films that originally birthed the Korean New Wave.