A major new player has arrived in the South Korean film industry in the form of a new investment/production/distribution network named A-Line, to be run collectively by KTB Entertainment, Samsung Venture Investment Corporation, Kang JeGyu Films and the recently-established EGG Films. More a broad partnership than a distinct corporate entity, the network has already secured distribution rights to 20 upcoming films.

Unveiled at a special ceremony on Jan 22, A-Line has declared itself open to all interested parties, and hopes eventually to cooperate with industries from other parts of Asia as well. Local importer/distributor Gamja, who released a small number of films including Mulholland Drive in Korea late last year, is currently in negotiations to join the network.

A-Line aims to pool the resources of two of the industry's biggest investors, KTB Entertainment and Samsung Venture Investment, together with various film funds to amass a working total of $77m (won 100 billion) for future productions. Currently the network has secured $23m in capital.

The company's distribution activities will be handled initially by executives from Kang JeGyu Films, which has co-distributed its own works in the past. New titles will be procured from various sources, notably from EGG Films, which has contracted the services of five major directors over the next four to six years.

A decision by the network on whether to become a separate, legal corporate entity is expected to be made in the coming months.

The local distribution scene in Korea has seen significant changes in the past year, with upstart Korea Pictures joining Cinema Service and CJ Entertainment as strong players in the local market. After the acquisition of rival Tube Entertainment by CJ Entertainment in late 2001, the field appeared to be consolidating, however the appearance of A-Line is likely to intensify the competition to secure new product.

Earlier this month, local multiplex chain Megabox Cineplex, Inc. also announced its intention to establish its own distribution arm, to be called Showbox. Although initially focused only on distribution, the company intends to eventually move into investment and production as well.