The Asian Content Film Market (ACFM), the Busan International Film Festival’s industry platform, wrapped up this week with organizers and market participants voicing a mix of optimism and concern for the post-pandemic state of the movie market. 

The event, which was held in the city’s massive BEXCO convention center, attracted 1,059 companies and 2,185 industry participants from 48 countries over four days — the highest attendance rate since the market launched in 2006. 

The European Pavilion, which was jointly established by the European Film Promotion (EFP) and Unifrance, was staffed by representatives from 39 companies, while major Korean distributors and streaming services, including Disney+ and Netflix, participated in the Busan Story Market, the venue for intellectual property (IP) pitches, which introduced new projects from the region.

A market insider who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Hollywood Reporter that ACFM could potentially become the primary platform for trading in Asian content for the foreseeable future, with Filmart, the biggest film trade market in Asia, losing its attractiveness due to Hong Kong’s political unrest and strict COVID restrictions. 

“With Tokyo’s TIFFCOM continuing to be an online event this year and Hong Kong’s political tension, I think many view ACFM as the best option to trade Asian content,” the official said. 

The market’s highlight were the pitching sessions of the newly launched Busan Story Market, where original IP spanning Korean and Asian novels, web comics and web novels were introduced to domestic and international industry professionals. 

On Sunday, participants from Netflix Korea, acclaimed Korean screenwriter Chung Seokyung and U.S. production companies, including Double Hope Films and United Talent Agency, discussed the global success of Korean dramas and films, while also exploring strategies for future development. 

Despite the high attendance rate and enthusiasm about Korean content, some companies told THR that actual sales were slow this year, with few major acquisitions announced.

“Overall we didn’t think it was an aggressive market,” said Joy Kim, manager of international sales at Showbox, which brought Korean titles, including Don Lee’s Men of Plastic and Ransomed, an action thriller featuring Ha Jung-woo as the male lead, to the market. “With the global economy in bad shape and some countries still having strict COVID restrictions, box office is yet to have recovered fully.” Added Kim: “Buyers also find it difficult to cope with the increased price of Korean content. But many still think it is worth the price.” 

Many companies were understood to still be negotiating deals as the market came to a conclusion. Busan Story Market generated 1,027 business meetings during the market, according to organizers.  

Veteran sales outfit Finecut acquired international rights to Brave Citizen (working title), an adaptation of a web comic that was produced by Wavve, a local streaming service. The story, which follows a female boxing champion becoming a substitute teacher, is currently in post-production. 

CJ ENM and Japan’s Toei Animation disclosed the status of IP cooperation projects and discussed future business strategies to produce global content in an event titled “Cooperation Between Korea and Japan’s IP Business: It’s Harvest Time.” Toei, which was founded in 1956 with the goal of becoming Asia’s Disney, has produced scores of hit animations, including Galaxy Express 999, Dragon Ball and Slam Dunk

“If Korean companies managed to develop trendy and relatable IPs, and produced content recognized by the global market based on flexible manpower operation and a quick decision-making process, Japanese content is characterized by its culture of masters who can produce optimized results without losing solidity,” said Lee Jong-min, head of the CJ ENM IP Development Center. “During our collaboration, we learned that Japanese film companies have been working hard to enter the global market. I hope that we can find an answer to accelerate the process as our systems and planning capabilities are combined.” 

The Asian Project Market (APM), Busan’s main co-production market, also unveiled its award winners on Tuesday. The Busan Award, which comes with a $15,000 cash prize, went to director Maung Sun’s Future Laobans of Myanmar, while the CJ ENM Award went to Gaspar by Indonesia’s Yosep Anggi Noen. The TAICCA Award, handed out by Taiwan Creative Contents Agency, went to Sima’s Song by Roya Sadat. This year’s APM selected 29 award-winning projects covering a diverse range of topics, genres and production countries.  

Daniel Kim, head of ACFM, explained that market badge registrants this year rose by 20 percent compared to 2019, suggesting a healthy comeback compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

“Overall, participants were satisfied, and we believe that the needs to meet in person and discuss deals were met,” Kim says. “But for the buyers’ side it was tricky because Korean film companies are still tending to delay their theatrical releases and that makes overseas releases unpredictable. Also, the absence of Chinese companies may have had an impact on slow sales. So we’re still in the transition period. But next year we hope to expand the market infrastructure to be able to host over 3,000 participants.” 

Busan 2022 ACFM

Busan International Film Festival

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