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Korea in L.A.

Korea in L.A.

How great to welcome Korea’s leading exhibitor CJ CGV to L.A. where it is opening a mulitplex June 11 in Koreatown. Koreatown is halfway between West L.A. where Hollywood’s machers live and work and Downtown L.A. where Los Angeles Film Festival has installed itself for the first time to the discontent of many Westsiders who never drive beyond La Brea at the farthest end of West L.A. I hope LAFF (June 17-27) will take advantage of this new venue. And I hope all of L.A. will come to see West L.A. to East L.A. as a vast multicultural continuum. By driving on Wilshire or 6th Street from West L.A. to East L.A., one goes through vast Jewish, Wasp, Latin American, Armenian, Thai, Korean, Japanese and Mexican populations.

Not since the 50s and 60s, when The Kabuki and Toho theaters were showing Japanese films to a generation whose eyes were opening to world cinema, has such an event occurred. In business terms it also made perfect sense.

After several successful film exports to the United States during the 1950s through Henry G. Saperstein, Toho opened the La Brea Theatre in Los Angeles to show its own films without selling to a distributor. It was known as the Toho Theatre from the late 1960s until the 1970s. Toho also had a theater in San Francisco and opened a theater in New York in 1963.

As one of the new generation of film goers, I saw Kwaiden, the scariest movie I had ever seen, along with Zatoichi films (at the Kabuki which served the USC crowd as well as the Japanese community of South Central L.A.), Kurosawa‘s films and several really good anti-war films there.

To be fair, the Italians briefly and unsuccessfully tried to open a theater in L.A. in the 90s, but the idea never took hold. That may be due to the paucity of good Italian cinema in that era or to poorly managed business plans. But the Koreans have been very savvy in their growing of Korean cinema over the past 14 years. In November 2009 I wrote about the industry’s development at a ceremony of the Thessaloniki Film Festival honoring Mr. KIM Dong-Ho, the founder of Pusan International Film Festival for his innovative and creative activities working to establish Pusan as Korea’s film capital. His address was eloquent and enlightening.

And, if I am not mistaken, Cheiljedang (Miky Lee) ♀, the founder of CJ Entertainment in 1995, came out of Samsung, and to our credit, was the woman who invested US$300 million in the newly established DreamWorks. If this is correct, I am happy to add her as the second woman of note in the top tier of the Korean entertainment business. (See my blog on Finecut’s founder Youngjoo SUH, the founding member of Cineclick Asia.)

Let us hope that this event opens a new generation’s eyes to the value of films NOT in the English language and that it successfully creates a true bridge between the East and the West.

From Screen International 8 June, 2010 | By Jean Noh

Leading Korean exhibitor CJ CGV is set to open a mulitplex in LA on June 11. CGV LA will have three screens, 600 seats and 3D projection.

Aiming to be a bridge for Korean culture to the US, the theatre will release Korean films with English subtitles almost at the same time as in South Korea. In addition to commercial titles, CGV LA will screen arthouse films and hold special showcases, as well as sports programs and live concerts by Korean singers.

“Although it might be small in size, we expect it to quickly mark its place as a theatre brand that creates local trends through distinguished service and operation on a level of the best in the world,” said Kim Ju-hyung, CEO of CJ CGV, declaring that the point of the theatre was less short-term profit-making and more to be a platform for Korean contents in the long-term to reach North America.

The new CGV is in Madang The Courtyard entertainment center in Korea Town.

With the 1.2m between seats, CGV LA claims to have the most legroom of any theatre in LA. It will also have a designated seating and reservation system.

The multiplex will also include a Cine Cafe serving red bean shaved ice parfaits and other Korean treats.

In this week ahead of its official opening, CGV LA is holding US premieres of films including Blades Of Blood, Secret Reunion, and Haeundae. Guests include major studio representatives, film school academics and cinephile clubs.

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