In time for its press event in Seoul this week, Next Entertainment World announced a preliminary list of cinemas that will be screening Bong Joon-ho’s Okja (옥자).
NEW has been able to book around 100 independent cinemas across South Korea, including Seoul’s Daehan Cinema – where a press screening was held today for media and industry professionals – and the Busan Cinema Center, the official venue of the Busan International Film Festival. Seven of the cinemas have already opened pre-sales for the June 29th release.
This is a far smaller scale than Bong is used to. His previous film, Snowpiercer, opened on over 1,000 screens in South Korea on its opening weekend.
The list – which was only made available to Korean press – does not include any cinema under the country’s three major cinema chains: CGV, Lotte and Megabox. According to local media reports, CGV’s position against the day-and-date release on Netflix has not changed, meaning that it remains firm on not screening the Netflix production if the streaming company insists on a day-and-date release on its platform.
However, Lotte has told some media outlets that it might consider screening the film, though only at a later date as a re-release if Netflix insists on the day-and-date release. Megabox, meanwhile, says that it has yet to make a final decision. The three cinema chains account for 93% of all screens in South Korea
NEW says that it will have a final list of cinemas about a week before the release date.
The potential boycott by South Korean multiplexes is part of an ongoing battle between the global streaming giant and the exhibition industry. Netflix relies on its day-and-date global release strategy to attract subscribers to their original productions, but exhibitors feel that such a release strategy hurts traditional film release pattern – major exhibitors in the US also refuse to screen Netflix’s films in their cinemas. Purists also feel that streaming giants such as Netflix is hurting the sanctity of the theatrical experience by drawing audiences away from cinemas.
However, some film critics in South Korea believe that Netflix will have the last laugh, as the ongoing debate is only creating additional publicity for the streaming platform, which has reportedly been having a tough time penetrating the South Korean market.
South Korea has one of the shortest cinema-to-video-on-demand window. New releases are generally made available for IPTV and internet video-on-demand services (similar to iTunes) only three weeks after theatrical release.
Meanwhile, Bong and his actors are expected to face more questions about the ongoing saga when they attend the red carpet event and press conference in Seoul later this week.