Since the early days of cinema, Hollywood has always been viewed as the top dog, but there's a new player in town -- the Chinese film industry.
And our film critic Pierce Conran says Korea hasn't failed to notice that trend and he joins me now to tell us more.
It's good to have you back in the studio, Pierce.
The Chinese film industry is growing at a rapid pace, and you were saying last week that you noticed an alignment between the Chinese and Korean film industries at the Busan International Film Festival.
That's absolutely right. Chinese language films claimed 4 of the 6 biggest slots at the festival, while the Asian Film Market featured a government-backed Chinese delegation for the very first time. The festival featured a number of Chinese of events and seems to be aware both of the importance of the Chinese film industry's standing and the marked increase in activity between the two countries.
It's not limited to the film industry but when it comes to the film market, why is everyone looking at China these days?
China's domestic film market has been on the rise for quite some time but in the last few years it has experienced explosive growth. It's expanding about 30% a year and by according to some reports is adding about 10 new screens a day to feed an ever growing audience as people move to the cities and move up the social ladder. In 2013, China bet Japan for the first time to claim the 2nd spot in the world rankings. Its market size is still only a quarter of the US' (which is around $11 billion), but is expect to pass it in 2020.
With such an enormous audience, I would imagine it's not just Korea who's trying to get a piece of the pie.
Definitely. Hollywood can sense the powers of the global market shifting East and has responded by attempting to align itself with China, or at least various companies within that industry. China has a quota on foreign films which stands at 34. Co-productions get past that quota and film with Chinese elements go down very well with local viewers so increasingly were seeing US films shot in China, such as IRON MAN 3 and TRANSFORMERS 4, which is currently the highest growing film of all time in China, with $300 million, significantly more than it made in the US.
So where does Korea enter the picture?
Actually, compared with the US, Korea has been far more active in its attempts to crack the Chinese market and has arguably been more successful in laying down long term connections. The government also signed a co-production treaty with China earlier this year. The Korean Film Council has an office in Beijing and is actively involved in a number of projects. CJ Entertainment has been involved in a number of projects with Korean personnel aimed exclusively for the Chinese market, and has experienced quite a bit of success, namely with A WEDDING INVITATION, and a number of actors and directors are now making films in Korea. These range from director AHN Byung-ki, who has remade his BUNSHINSABA film in to a trilogy of successful horrors in China over the last 2 two years, and big stars such as Jang Dong-gun, Jung Woo-sung and perhaps most notably Kwon Sang-woo co-starring in major Chinese projects.
What big projects are in the works now?
Perhaps the most notable is MY NEW SASSY GIRL, the sequel to the hit 2001 romcom which at the time was a big success in China. The sequel is now a co-production and will feature the original male lead Cha Tae-hyun alongside a Chinese actress. Choi Dong-hoon, the director behind THE THIEVES, is currently shooting his new film ASSASSINATION in Shanghai, which looks set to be one of next year's biggest films. Meanwhile, Kwon Sang-woo will co-star in HONEYMOON WITH THE ENEMY, following his appearance in Jackie Chan hit CHINESE ZODIAC last year. These are only a few of the many projects on the go.
Do you see any dangers in Korea's eagerness to be involved with China?
The relationship seems to be going well so far but the one thing that does worry me is that China is looking to Korea, an industry world renowned for impeccable production values, for its technical know-how. Many genre directors, crew members and visual effects artists are imparting their knowledge to Chinese counterparts on these projects. Being so close and much cheaper than Hollywood, it seems obvious that China would look to Korea for this kind of guidance. However, once that information is considered to be absorbed, there may no longer be the same need for a relationship.
Thank you Pierce.