MANILA, Philippines — Television host and entrepreneur Grace Lee has ventured into film distribution, bringing The Roundup — currently, the No. 1 box-office hit in South Korea — to Philippine cinemas.
The crime action-comedy, a follow-up to the 2017 K-movie The Outlaws, stars a new Ma Dong Seok (Don Lee) as a hard-nosed detective assigned to hunt down a criminal who fled to Vietnam, only to meet a mysterious killer more vicious than the fugitive they’re ordered to bring back. My Liberation Notes lead actor Son Suk Ku also stars in the film as a career criminal who preys on helpless tourists in the film.
The Roundup serves as the opening except in the lineup of major Korean releases under Grace’s content production and distribution company, Glimmer, Inc.
It was in 2019 when Grace, a Korean who considers the Philippines as her home, set up the company “with the goal of really being the bridge between the Philippines and Korea for entertainment and cultural exchange.”
Due to the pandemic, Glimmer’s big-screen offerings planned for 2020 had to be shelved. “I almost gave up… But we’re very fortunate (because) when the pandemic was almost over, our Korean partners ay talagang kinontak ako and they encouraged me to continue what I was doing so that the Philippines could be a strong market for Korean content, production companies and actors. So, although this is three years delayed, I hope this is a very successful beginning to Glimmer’s projects,” Grace told The STAR in a recent interview.
Among the company’s priorities is to have K-movies screened in the Philippines simultaneously with Korea just like Hollywood movies, which are released on the same day as the US or even earlier at times.
Grace said, “The problem kasi with Korean movies, usually tapos na siya ipalabas sa mga sinehan sa Korea, dun pa siya ipapalabas dito. So sobrang huli na. Train To Busan, for example, was months after it was shown in Korea. We wanted to be like the Hollywood movies na simultaneously showing in the Philippines ang Korean movies.”
She added, “This has never happened in the Philippines. If we do this very well, I am sure that all the major films from Korea will be brought to you by Glimmer, simultaneously with Korea.”
Grace shared how The Roundup was selected as the first project for the year.
“We have many partner companies na during planning stages, they already pitch (the film) to me — who the actors are, what’s the storyline and the anticipated release date in Korea. And when I get that, I’ll take a look — is this story bagay and going to be a hit among Pinoys? That’s No. 1. No. 2, kilala ba ng mga Pinoy itong mga Korean actors? So, I made my decision based on that,” she said.
“And of course, when it came to The Roundup, it became a very easy decision to choose this as our first 2022 project because Don Lee is quite famous in the Philippines due to Train To Busan and Eternals, which is very recent.
“On top of that, we’re very fortunate that Son Suk Ku became suddenly famous in the Philippines these past two months because of My Liberation Notes on Netflix. So, the timing was so good and so I became more confident with the project.”
Grace noted that to date, The Roundup is being dubbed the No. 1 movie for 2022 in Korea, after surpassing the 10-million mark for ticket sales. The record-breaking feat also makes the film as “most-watched Korean movie during the pandemic era,” said news outlet Korea Times, citing box-office data.
Grace is hoping that Filipinos’ fascination with K-pop music and K-dramas will work wonders for the movie as well.
She admitted that her Korean partners are “half-hopeful, half-doubtful about how Filipino audiences will react to or accept the simultaneous screening of a Korean movie.”
“Always alam ng lahat ng mga Korean (producers) na pagdating sa K-pop or Korean drama, napakalakas talaga dito sa Pilipinas. But with the movie, it’s a different animal. I hope the public will help me make The Roundup, also the biggest movie here in the Philippines,” she added.
Meanwhile, two more K-films are rolling into local theaters in September and October. Grace couldn’t divulge the titles yet but are “highly anticipated in Korea.” She’s also hoping to bring actors to promote the films in the future, depending on how The Roundup will perform in the local box-office.
Besides film distribution, Grace’s company is involved in luring Korean productions to film in the Philippines.
“We also encourage Korean productions to come here to shoot content,” she said. “Because No. 1, it creates jobs in the Philippines. Then, they’re able to charge Korean companies premium vis-a-vis local rates because there’s an international standard for that.”
She hopes the country will benefit from the K-wave happening around the world.
She added, “I created Glimmer because, of course, I wanted to bring in the Korean talents whether on-cam or off-cam so that we can also elevate our off-cam talents because the way Koreans make content is international level, they ‘re very, very good at what they do. I think there’s something to be learned by the Filipino productions from them and vice-versa. There are things that Korea can learn from us.”
Just recently, they wrapped up a K-drama shoot for airing sometime in November. It will be promoted in the Philippines by October.
She said it’s the first Korean drama series that’s 70-percent based in the Philippines. “They shot here for three months. Can you imagine? It’s a Korean series but the Philippine actors and locations are more than half (of the production). I think Filipinos will be very proud when they watch it.”
The Roundup will exclusively screen in SM Cinemas starting tomorrow, June 22.