Global streaming giant Netflix has teamed with South Korea’s largest cinema chain CJ CGV to give theatrical releases to seven Netflix Original movies. The Korean-language titles will be given a limited 13-day run (Sept. 1-12, 2021) in 80 CGV multiplexes.
The initiative, branded as ‘NetFic,’ is the latest effort by the film industry to stimulate box office in Korea, where the exhibition and distribution sectors in Korea have been badly shaken by the impact of COVID-19. Audiences have been slow to return to in-person screenings and many high-profile film releases have been postponed or canceled as a result.
Netflix and other streaming platforms have been able to take advantage of the malaise and license some of the disrupted titles.
Among the titles in the NetFic season are “Time to Hunt,” a futuristic action thriller which had its world premiere at the 2020 Berlin festival but abandoned its theatrical plans during the first wave of the coronavirus. Others are: “Space Sweepers,” a tentpole sci-fi title which disappointed fans of stars Song Joong Ki and Kim Tae Ri when it opted for the straight-to-streaming route in November; mystery-thriller “Call” with Park Shin Hye; comedy “What Happened to Mr. Cha?,” starring Cha In Pyo; “Night in Paradise” with Jeon Yeo Bin and Um Tae Goo; “Sweet & Sour”; and “The 8th Night.”
Proceeds from the season are to fuel Netflix’s Korean Classic Film Restoration Project, a program to restore and preserve classic Korean movies of the past century.
Since debuting in the country in 2016 Netflix has become the most-subscribed and most watched streaming service in Korea. It has also become a significant investor in Korean content and has made Korean film and TV series a key plank in its roster within Asia. Earlier this year, it announced the long-term lease of two studio facilities near Seoul and followed that with a commitment to invest KRW550 billion ($472 million) this year in Korean drama, film and variety formats.
The streamer previously gave a theatrical release in Korea to Bong Joon-ho’s 2017 feature “Okja” but major chains including CJ CGV, Lotte and Megabox boycotted the move as Netflix insisted on a day and date streaming plus theatrical release. Since then, the two sides have found more common ground.
Foreign-made Netflix movies including Ron Howard’s “Hillbilly Elegy,” David Fincher’s “Mank,” Ryan Murphy’s “The Prom” and George Clooney’s “The Midnight Sky” have all played in Korean theaters.