Film producers stampede into musicals

The growing local musical industry is attracting major film production companies, which are deemed to be the highest profit makers in cultural industries.

CineLine-II, the production company of "Running Boy" ("Marathon") (2005) and Friend (2002) will stage "Fall in Love", a new musical of their own creation, at Yonkang Hall, downtown Seoul, from June 2 to Aug. 27. "With so many foreign-licensed musicals dominating major venues, the local musical market has become a league of its own", said Seok Myung-hong, president of the film production company in explaining the background of his decision to join the theatrical production.

"The Story of Pyeonggang, the Princess of Mirror"
Seok's company has invested 800 million won in the Romantic Comedy, which will mark its stage debut. Sung Jae-joon, the producer of musical "Music in My Heart", has been leading the cast including rising musical star Kim Da-hyun ("Hedwig") and comedian Lee Jae-hoon, as director, while 2004 Jonathan Larson Award-wining Lee Gi-hieh is working on the original scores of the musical. Featuring two very different brothers - an active, lady-killing older brother and a timid younger sibling - "Fall in Love" is a satirical portrait of love and marriage. Tickets are 20,000 to 45,000 won. For more information, call (02) 708-5001.

MK Pictures (former Kang Je-gyu Film), the production company best known for director Kang Je-gyu 's 1999 action and romance blockbuster "Shiri", has recently unveiled its plan to produce a comic horror "Gumiho Gajok", simultaneously as a film and a musical. The company has also come up with a plan to remake its 1998 hit comic thriller "The Quiet Family" into musical.

Sidus FNH, one of the nation's leading film production companies whose recent works include "South of the Border", will also seek to resurrect a few of its old lineups by turning Singles (2003) and "The Ginko Bed" (1996) into musical dramas.

CJ Entertainment, the film producer/distributor that has been expanding its business to the musical industry through Broadway and West End blockbusters including "Aida", is now looking to extend its reach into smaller productions. In addition to "The Story of Pyeonggang, the Princess of Mirror", which will be performed at Yesul Madang in Daehangno, Seoul, until May 21, CJ plans to stage a few more small- and medium-sized musicals of its own creation through the end of the year. The biggest reason for the stampede is, of course, potential profits guaranteed by the musical market that has been recording an average annual growth of 30 percent in the past three years. With more than 100 musical dramas staged last year alone, they have sold more than a million tickets, worth more than 200 billion won.

Additionally, the latest trend of "breaking down the wall" between the two narrative genres, originally triggered by Broadway and Hollywood, has also encouraged the local film production companies, according to the people of the industry. "We can minimize the risk of losing money by making a musical drama based on a well-known hit film", Song Seung-hwan, president of PMC Production, said in an interview.

In the United States and Europe, "Spider-man" and "Shrek" are being made into new musical dramas, respectively, while "Beauty and the Beast", "Lion King", "Billy Elliot" and even "The Lord of the Rings" and "Edward Scissorhands", have already been reborn as highly acclaimed musical repertoires.

The local musical industry also has an example of a successful remaking of a hit film: the musical version of "Waikiki Brothers" (2001). "The King and the Clown" (2005), a film that broke the country's all-time box office record earlier this year, is also being worked on to be performed in September as a musical drama, by Seoul Performing Arts Company.

"With the wider introduction of the five day-work week, people have more leisure time, which has been and will be a strong driving force for the growth of the local musical industry", Seok said. "Under the circumstances, it will be only natural that more and more film productions develop interests in the musical industry".

By Lee Yong-sung
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