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Plays, Films Feel Synergy Effect

2005/12/27 Source

By Bae Keun-min, Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporters

Theater stages have been seeking revitalization with various schemes, including celebrity marketing. Many film and television stars, including Yoo Ji-tae, Moon Sung-geun, Sol Kyung-gu and Yoo Oh-sung, showed up on the stage this year and gave their fans a chance to see them up close and personal.

Having a film star in a play is considered a win-win strategy for both the actor and the play as stars have a chance to show off their ability and to be considered as serious actors.

However, celebrated actors are not alone to crossing back and forth between the two genres. Beloved stage directors such as Jang Jin and Lee Youn-taek made films and received rave reviews from both critics and audiences.

Moreover, the two genres share not only human resources, but also content and marketing, through which they hope to create synergy and jointly grow.

Plays Give Birth to Hit Films

The upcoming film "The King and the Clown" was made based on "Yi", an acclaimed play, which was first staged here in 2000. The movie's producer says that the original play's narrative was so attractive that he decided to make it into a movie.

"As the original story was so powerful and well written", said Jeong Jin-wan, producer of "The King and the Clown", "we could take a huge advantage of it when we were writing the scenario for the film".

The play deals with the true story of Yonsan, a tyrannical king of the Choson Kingdom, and his favorite court jester Kong-gil with the addition of fictional accounts and characters.

But they modified some parts of the original story to make it suitable for film, and also focusing on the identity issues involved in the relationship between the king and his jester who he envies, Jeong said.

When the film version of a play is made, it tries to attract fans of the original play through a cooperative marketing strategy.

Last week, audiences of "Yi" were offered to see a premiere of "The King and the Clown" after watching the play. They purchased a ticket only for the play but had a chance to meet and talk with actors and actresses of both the play and the film before the movie was screened.

The play, which was staged until Dec. 21, will be have an encore run from Jan. 7 to 21, and it is expected that moviegoers who like the film will also like the play when it is staged.

Apart from "The King and the Clown", there have been efforts made for filmmakers to use success formulas in popular theatrical productions.

The movie "Welcome to Dongmakgol" by director Bae Jong and the biggest hit of this year _ seen by over 8 million people _ is based on the 2002 play.

The play and the film tell almost the same story of Korean War soldiers from different sides who are stranded in a remote mountain village called Dongmakgol, but computer graphics and new technology in the film enabled the filmmaker to render a more realistic portrayal of the mysterious village and add more fantasy elements on a grander scale.

Although original play "Welcome to Dongmakgol" was written by popular playwright and producer Jang Jin, it was made into a film by Park. But Jang made a thriller of a murder investigation based on his 2000 popular play "The Big Scene" this year, which was a moderate success.

Other successful movies derived from popular plays include the 2003 hit film "Memories of Murder", a fictional account of a true serial-murder case in the 1990s. But it was actually based on the 1996 play titled "Come to See Me".

But not all movies based on popular plays have been commercially successful. Liar', based on the Korean version of the popular British play, and "Ogu: Hilarious Mourning" by the nation's leading theatrical director Lee Yoon-taek failed to meet the high expectation cinematically that the original theatrical production created.

Rising in "Movicals"

Another observable trend in content sharing within the entertainment industry has spawn a new genre called "movicals", a compound word of movies and musicals, which indicates musicals created based on non-musical film scripts.

However, the genre is technically not new and has been around since the 1950s. According to BBC reports, the 1961 musical "Carnival", based on the film "Lili", is often sited as the first commercial hit movicals.

But the genre has especially engaged public attention in recent years, thanks to the popularity of Disney animation-turned-musicals since a decade ago and a Broadway version of the 1968 film "The Producers" by Mel Brooks in 2001. Interestingly, the success of the Brooks musical recently gave birth to a remake of the screen version.

Disney movicals such as "Beauty and the Beast" and "Lion King" sold $3.3 billion in the mid 1990s, triggering such major film studios as Dream Works, MGM and Warner Bros to jump into the business.

MGM set up MGM On Stage in 2002, while Warner established Warner Theater Ventures in 2003 to develop and license movicals form their library of films and famous characters. MGM is developing musicals based on "Legally Blonde", "Moonstruck" and "the Pink Panther". Warner picked "Lestat", derived from "Interview With a Vampire" (1994) and "Queen of the Damned" (2002), as its inaugural production.

The local entertainment industry has also hopped on the bandwagon. The musical "Wanderer in Winter (Kyoul Nagune)" in 1997 is considered a pioneer for the new genre here, modified from its film version of the same title in 1996. The movical has been performed in several productions over the years and is being presented at the National Theater of Korea in Seoul.

Early last year, the musical "Waikiki Brothers", adapted from the film by director Yim Soon-rye of the same name, premiered with rave reviews and is waiting to run once more next year. The musical is about a rock band of high school friends and their dream, featuring famed Korean pop songs of the past.

New movicals are being developed as well. A stage version of Singles', a 2003 film that starred actress Jang Jin-yeong, singer/actress Uhm Jung-hwa and actor Kim Joo-hyuk, is underw to meet audiences next year.

Popular teen actress Moon Geun-young's "Innocent Steps" (2005), which attracted 2.2 million moviegoers, will be reborn as a musical, with a budget of 2-2.5 billion won. Producers of the movical are working on scripts, lyrics and music.

"Winter Sonata", a television drama which has fueled the on-going popularity of Korean pop culture, or "hallyu", in Asia and beyond, seeks to link the fame to a musical twist of the soap. The "soapical" will premiere in Japan in January and February.

"It is advantageous that a film producer can utilize already possessed contents or movies in making a musical. And, there is an already completed script, which is the core of the musical production", said Cho Yong-sin, musical critic and author of the book "Musical Story".

Cho said the movicals trend is expected to continue, but recent films would be preferred as they are still alive in people's minds, which would help producers to save initial marketing costs for promoting musicals.

"It is concerned whether the trend will result in a slacking off of creativity in the musicals industry, as scriptwriters and composers would have less opportunities to work, leading to reduction in the number of creative staff", Cho said.

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