Netflix's Okja Boycotted By South Korean Exhibitors

Ahn Seo Hyun and the creature, Okja, in Okja

Netflix's Okja is hitting a major stumble in director Bong Joon-ho's own homeland, South Korea, as the top three exhibitors in the country refuse to screen the film. The Korean-American action-adventure film was not only directed by the world-renowned Bong but was also co-written by him together with Jon Ronson. The project stars Hollywood actors Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, as well as, Korean-American star Steven Yeun.

The film has been causing a lot of controversial talks lately regarding its distributing arrangments. Netflix is set to release Okja on June 28 online via its streaming services in 190 countries. At the same time, the movie will also be hitting theaters in the United States, United Kingdom, and Korea. Traditionally, a film should screen in the cinemas first before airing on TV, followed by its released on various online platforms and Okja's set-up obviously goes against the grain.

In a report by local media outlet, Korea Times, CJ CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox are not looking to show Okja in their respective chain of theaters across the country. CGV, which owns 139 out of 335 cinemas (making it the largest movie house franchise in South Korea) said that it will not be screening the film as it would disrupt the "distribution order" in the industry. Instead, it suggests that Netflix should push back its own release date to at least 3 weeks to give local theaters the standard time cushion to exclusively show a motion picture.

Ahn Seo Hyun in Okja

Lotte Cinema, which is the second largest movie house chain also urges Netflix to not release Okja simultaneously online. However, if the streaming giant refuses to budge with their set schedule, Lotte is open to the possibility of re-releasing the film at a much later date. Third place, Megabox, on the other hand, says that while they are also against the same online and theatrical release, they would hold off their final decision and see how the situation pans out.

Despite backlash from some industry people and the threat of being boycotted by three of the largest South Korean cinema chains, the local distributor of the film Next Entertainment World (NEW), says that it is unlikely that Netflix will make some changes with regard to Okja's release date arrangements. With all parties involved seem to not have any intention of coming up with a compromise, the film is poised to not be shown in almost 93% of local Korean theaters - a staggering shut down percentage for a project that is helmed by a celebrated local director.

Director Bong has been one of the most acclaimed Korean filmmakers around the globe with notable works such as 2013's Snowpiercer,  2006's The Host and  2003's Memories of Murder. It is unfortunate to think that even with a stellar career under his belt and an upcoming seemingly well-crafted film, it just won't be enough to put Okja in theaters in South Korea given that it's the business side of movie making that will ultimately dictate the film's fate.

Source: Korea Times

Key Release Dates
  • Okja (2017) release date: Jun 28, 2017
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