‘Okja’ spurs debate on its screening in Korea » Manila Bulletin Entertainment

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The US-Korea movie “Okja” has stirred debate in South Korea as big movie chains refuse to screen it over Netflix’s decision to stream the film simultaneously.

Ahn Seo-hyun in ‘Okja’ (Photo: Netflix / Korean Film Council)

“Okja,” directed by Korea’s Bong Joon-ho, stars Korean actress Ahn Seo-hyun and Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano. It is about a girl who tries to save her animal friend from a company.

The movie will be shown in theaters in Korea but the three big Korean cinema chains, CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox, which have a total market share of 90 percent, have announced that they will not carry “Okja” because Netflix will also stream the movie simultaneously in South Korea and other countries on June 28.

Only 79 theaters with 103 screens in South Korea have agreed to show “Okja,” according to Yonhap News.

The Korean theater chains said the simultaneous streaming and screening will destroy the Korean film industry’s distribution system. Netflix has 80,000 subscribers in Korea, the report added.

“The reason why we refuse to release this profitable much-anticipated film is because we don’t know what influence it will have on the Korean cinema market in the long term,” according to one unnamed cinema chain official.

But Korean movie critic Jang Ji-wook scored the move, saying, “You cannot swim against the trend of the times where the ecosystem of films and their consumers have changed. I think the local movie industry are responding slowly to the changes.”

Director Bong blamed himself for causing the debate as he wanted “Okja” to be screened and streamed in Korea simultaneously.

“The controversy was caused due to my cinematic selfishness. I am the one who provided the cause. I fully understand the multiplexes asking for a minimum three-week hold back. Netflix’s principle for a simultaneous release should also be respected,” he said, Yonhap News added.

“Okja” was first screened at the Cannes Film Festival and it competed for the Palm D’or award.

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