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South Korea’s Leading Exhibitor Poised to Boycott Netflix’s ‘Okja’

Variety logo Variety 6/2/2017 Sonia Kil
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CJ-CGV, South Korea’s largest cinema exhibitor, is poised to deny screen space to “Okja,” Korean maestro Bong Joon-ho’s Netflix-backed movie that stirred up controversy at Cannes last month.

“A three-week hold-back period [between theatrical opening and online release] is an important business practice in Korea,” said Cho Sung-jin of CGV. “There are films that are simultaneously running in both physical theaters and online platforms, but they don’t open on the same date. If one exception is accepted, it will disturb the entire distribution system in Korea.”

“Okja” will be available to Netflix users in 190 countries on June 28 (June 29, Korean time), and is simultaneously set for a theatrical release in South Korea on June 29.

Next Entertainment World, the Korean distributor of “Okja,” is still negotiating with cinema chains in the country. But CGV says there is little possibility that the film can open on its screens.

“’Okja’ was not made as a movie for physical theaters to begin with. Netflix is using ‘Okja’ as a means to attract Korean subscribers, because Bong is a highly appreciated director in this country,” Cho said. “Although we’re not officially announcing our decision yet, there is not so much room for negotiation because Netflix and NEW have been very firm about its distribution plan.”

The Cannes festival’s selection of the film, a cuddly drama about corporate greed and the food industry, for the official competition caused widespread debate before and during the festival. Talk centered on the clash between online and physical screening, windows or hold-backs, and Netflix role as a financier.

Lotte Cinema, Korea’s second largest chain, may benefit from a CJ-CGV boycott if it agrees to open its screens to “Okja” or negotiates to become the exclusive theater partner. Lotte currently operates some 800 screens nationwide.

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