Fox unveils first foray into Korean market

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Feb 26, 2013 - 20:16
  • Updated : Feb 26, 2013 - 20:16

Fox International Productions’ first locally produced film was finally unveiled on Tuesday, featuring Park Chan-wook’s “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” star Shin Ha-gyun in the lead.

An international production umbrella unit of America’s major film production house Fox Filmed Entertainment, FIP produces and distributes local language films around the globe. Known as one of the world’s largest producers and distributors of motion pictures, Fox blockbusters include “Avatar,” “Titanic” and “Star Wars.”

The upcoming film, titled “Running Man,” tells the story of a father (played by Shin) who is wrongfully accused of murdering a cab passenger and soon becomes a wanted criminal. While being chased by the police and the press on Seoul streets, he desperately tries to clear his name and reunite with his 17-year-old son (played by Lee Min-ho). 
FIP president Sanford Panitch speaks during a press conference promoting the company’s first Korean project, “The Running Man,” in Seoul on Tuesday. (1st Look)

“We were very impressed with the concept of trying to make a film that would be pushing the action portion, all done in a realistic way within Seoul itself,” said FIP president Sanford Panitch during a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday, when asked about why the company chose the action flick to be their first Korean project.

“And the father-son story very much appealed to us all as the emotional core of the film. For those two reasons we really thought it is a good start for us.”

The release of “Running Man” comes three years after FIP’s investment in director Na Hong-jin’s thriller “The Yellow Sea” in 2010. According to Panitch, FIP has invested in over 50 local language films in 11 different countries, including Japan, Spain, Russia, India, Brazil and Taiwan.

The company’s 2011 Mexican film “Miss Bala” was selected as the Mexican entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards, though did not make the final shortlist. Its 2011 German project “What a Man” also enjoyed box office success, while receiving positive reviews from local critics.

“We never talk about budgets of our films,” said Panitch, when a reporter asked him how much FIP invested in the upcoming Korean film. “So whether it is ‘Avatar,’ or all the way to ‘Die Hard,’ we don’t talk about our budgets or investment. But we tried to make ‘Running Man’ in the most economical way we could, and were looking to fulfill the expectations of an action film.”

Panitch said the company’s primary goal was to attract many local viewers.

“For Fox, being a worldwide distributor, we want the film to be most successful in Korea where it is set in the language it is spoken and where it needs to be the most successful,” he said.

“At the same time, if we think there is an opportunity for the film in other parts of the world, we are certainly going to take advantage of that, including showing the film to the U.S. audiences or other territories. And I think this one will.”

Panitch said it wasn’t until the international release of Park Chan-wook’s 2003 film “Oldboy” that triggered many in Hollywood, including himself, to turn their eyes to Korean films; the thriller had the aesthetics and the kind of storytelling that many in the U.S. had not seen before, he said.

He also mentioned Bong Jun-ho’s “The Host” (2006) and Kim Jee-woon’s “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” (2008), when talking about the unique talent in Korean cinema. Both Bong and Kim, along with Park Chan-wook, are making their Hollywood debuts this year.

“I don’t think you can be a film executive today...not being able to have a history of seeing Korean films,” he said.

“Running Man” also received funding from the Korean Film Council’s “location incentive” program, which supports part of the cost of foreign feature films and TV drama series shot in Korea. The film is slated to be released in local theaters in April.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)