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Screen Quota Cut in Effect July 1st

2006/07/03 | 228 views | Permalink | Source

The controversial reduction of South Korea's screen quota system goes into effect Saturday July 1st, halving the mandatory days for the screening of domestic movies in theaters from 146 to 73. The quota had been a sticking-point in concluding a Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

Opposition from the local film industry has been fierce even since the government announced the decision back in January. The quota reduction drew international attention when several renowned Korean filmmakers and stars, including director Park Chan-wook and actor Choi Min-sik, staged protests at the Berlin and Cannes International Film Festival respectively.

A relay of one-man protests against the quota cut by directors and actors has been ongoing since February 4th, with The Host director BONG Joon-ho becoming the 141st on June 28th, holding a solo-demonstration in Gwanghwamun, a main street in Seoul. Speaking to the press and public, he said, "The screen quota for Korean movies will be halved from 146 days a year from July 1, but there are many good Korean movies waiting to be released, including Fly, Daddy, Fly, Dasepo Naughty Girls and Hanbando. I have high expectations that these movies will do well although the film industry is institutionally at stake due to the screen quota cut". On July 3rd, a final one-man protest will be held by the nation's most renowned veteran director, Im Kwon-taek.

According to an internet survey conducted by online movie ticket seller Maxmovie, 40% of 3,833 people polled believed the market share for Korean films would decline within a year of the cut, while another 22% said it would decline a year after the quota reduction.

As the reduction goes into effect mid-way through the year, the government has ruled that theaters still must screen local films for at least 36 days in the second-half of the year, even though they have already screened local films for 73 days in the first half. This would effectively put the 2006 screen quota at 109 days.

To soften the blow, the government has promised to provide 400 billion won to the film industry and build 100 art-house theaters over the next 5 years. The bulk of the funding will come from a 5% tax on box-office revenues, which theater-owners adamantly oppose.

Nigel D'Sa (KOFIC)

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