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2022 Cannes Market, Korean Cinema Becomes the Power to Revive the World Film Industry

Jul 15, 2022
  • Writerby Lee Sunphil
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2022 Cannes Market Report



In the post-COVID-19 Pandemic era, signs of a revival of the film and theater industry are detected everywhere. Compared to before the Pandemic, the 2022 Cannes Market started with 80% of the booths filled, but we could confirm the revival of the global film industry in the field. Especially it is nice to know the fact that Korean cinema is the driving force of the revival.


Major film festivals where filmmakers and cineastes from all over the world gather together are not only a place for new works by renowned creators but also a place where you can read the flow of the film industry at a glance. The 75th Cannes Film Festival, which declared its full recovery in the 3rd year of the COVID-19 Pandemic, was also the same. And one more thing, it enabled us to confirm that the film industry, which seemed to be on the decline due to the unprecedented pandemic, is not losing its energy at all. However, the subjects of that energy have only changed a little.


Although the direction of the event featuring commercial films from France, some European countries, and the United States remained the same, the presence of Korean films was very different. Since Okja (directed by Bong Joonho) and The Day After (directed by Hong Sangsoo) in 2017, the fact that 2 Korean films entered the competition category at the same time and that both won awards may prove the presence of Korean films in the global film industry. However, more specific and direct evidence could be found in the Cannes Film Festival market. 


A total of 8 Korean film-related companies set up official booths in the market this year, including CJ ENM, Lotte Entertainment, Contents Panda, Megabox Plus M, Studio Bonanza, ACEMAKER MOVIEWORKS, K-MOVIE ENTERTAINMENT, Finecut, etc. In addition, major film import distributors who import foreign films into Korea also went around the market on a scale comparable to that of 3 years ago.  


Some media reported that Director Park Chanwook's Decision to Leave was pre-sold to 192 countries and Broker to 171 countries, based on the information released by each distributor, but the quality is more important than the quantity. This is because the trading distribution rights no longer depends on each country but on each cultural area, working with influential distributors is the center of the business. 


As soon as Director Lee Jungjae's Hunt was premiered at the Midnight Screening, The Jokers Films was confirmed as the French regional distributor, while Neon was for distribution in North America. These are the two companies that distributed Bong Joonho's Parasite, which won the 2019 Palme d'Or. Neon is a new company with only 3 years of its history, but it is a distributor specializing in independent art films founded by Tom Quinn, who became independent from Harvey Weinstein. Raising $50 million in North America's income from Parasite alone, Neon contributed greatly to the Oscar campaign to win the first Academy Award in Korean film history. The Joker Films is also a powerful distributor that has consistently distributed Korean films, including Snowpiercer, The Handmaiden, etc. 


In the case of Decision to Leave, BAC Films is in charge of distributing the film in the French region. Although it's still an unfamiliar company to Korea, the rumor says that BAC Films paid a lot more than The Joker Films, which had tried to occupy the distribution right. For reference, Neon has the distribution rights of Broker in North America, while Metropolitan Company does in France. 


The competition was not only fierce for the films invited to the official sector. Some Southeast Asian countries, including China, failed to participate in the market due to the COVID-19 issue, filling the booth at about 80% of the average year, among which Korean film booths drew great attention. An official who participated in the festival said, "I think the transaction amount of Korean films will be the highest ever. Even if the asking price is very high, it seems that everybody wants to buy them without hesitation. Even if there is one more '0' digit added, they're flooded with transaction inquiries." 


The figures show that the prices of Korean films have jumped nearly 10 times. Of course, there are not many cases where the asking price is paid as it is, but the price close to it rose considerably compared to what it used to be. 


The forms of transactions have also diversified. Attempts to participate in the planning and development stage have begun to increase, not just buy and sell completed movies. In particular, in the case of Japan, where the film industry has shrunk relatively, it was confirmed that the relevant officials are continuing to propose cooperation with Korea by bringing their rich intellectual property rights (IP) such as novels or cartoons. This is because if the title of a Korean joint venture is attached to their work, it is advantageous to target the global market. 


Although it is not a financial profit for the domestic import distributors that purchase overseas films, it is said that they have realized the rising status of Korean content. An official said, "There are more and more people who are interested in the entire Korean culture including K-food and K-entertainment industry while talking about Squid Game when trading, and it gives us the leverage in bidding competition." 


Apart from the Festival de Cannes, the driving role of Korean films is also noticeable. The Roundup, released in major Asian countries and parts of Europe, starting with the U.S. on May 20th, is ranked in the top 20 among the films released worldwide in 2022 (about USD 97,511,278, based on the box office simulated survey). When it was limited to the North American box office, sales in June this year rose to about 90% (USD 990 million, based on ComScore) compared to June 2019, before the COVID-19 Pandemic. Most of the top-ranked films such as Top Gun: Maverick and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness are Hollywood movies in the U.S. The advancement of The Roundup can be an example of Korean films showing their presence in the vitality of the world theater community, which struggles to escape from the pandemic recession. 


Korean films are no longer guests of the world's major film festivals and film industries. For years, we have witnessed Korean cineastes appear as judges, presenters, and speakers at major global film festivals. Festival de Cannes this year also awarded two Korean films, making them a good use of a success card for the event. It is time for Korean filmmakers and related organizations to take responsibility and consider and implement a suitable system for the presence of Korean cinema in the world.

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