Sleeperhit King and the Clown became Korea's biggesthit of all time with a tally of 11.8 million admissions yesterday (March 5), toppingprevious record-holder Taegukgiwith 11.7 million.

Afterhaving its premiere at the Berlin market, internationalsales agent CJ Entertainment has decided to co-distribute the film directly in Japan with Kadokawa Herald Pictures, with whom they had a previous cooperationagreement.

Detailsof the deal are still being ironed out, but the release is planned to be on Kadokawa's theater chain plus independent arthouse cinemas and other multiplexes. The release is likelyto be around Christmas 2006 or early next year.

Thefilm, based on a popular play about two street clowns that go to the royalcourt to meet the tyrant king and his beautiful concubine, deals with classconflict and is a satire of politics and power set against an underlyingcurrent of love-hate relationships.

Distributedlocally by Cinema Service, the $4.5m Kingand the Clown opened on 256 screens, in contrast to Taegukgi, budgeted at $17m which startedwith 440 screens. King and the Clowngained momentum over the Lunar New Year weekend of January 28 and widened itsrelease to 491 screens in its fourth week, hitting the record 11.8 million markafter only 68 days on release.

King and the Clown, in additionto becoming widely known as a social phenomenon in Korea for its cross-generationappeal predominantly through word-of-mouth, internet and media coverage, broke previouslyaccepted rules in the local industry concerning historical dramas andhomosexuality not being themes that work at the box office. Newcomer, Lee Joon-ki who plays the transvestite clown has become anextremely popular figure attracting attention both for his acting ability andfor the film.

Filmswithout any big names or a blockbuster budget behind it have also previouslybeen seen as unlikely to attract big admissions. Kim In-soo, head of CinemaService, predicts fellow producers and investors will be encouraged by thesuccess of this small budget, no star vehicle in the face of inflating budgetsand casting fees.

CinemaService held 24.7% of the nationwide market, mostly on the continuing strengthof King and the Clown.