South Korea is re-emerging as a buying force at this market with several Korean distributors making multiple acquisitions of hot US and international product.

Mirovision has been the most aggressive on the buying front, acquiring nine titles, including Ed Zwick's Defiance from Essential Entertainment, The Women from Inferno Distribution and Juno from Mandate International.

The revitalised company, which started its buying splurge at Toronto, has also bought three titles from Seven Arts International, including Paul Verhoeven's Winter Queen, Autopsy and Men Don't Lie, and two from Odd Lot International - Armageddagain: The Day Before Tomorrow and Vicente Amorim's Good. It has also acquired Vincenzo Natali's Splice from Gaumont.

Mirovision, which is being repositioned by incoming CEO Bae Su-seok, has also hired Nicolas Piccato, a former Mexican movie industry veteran who helped craft the Korean-French co-production treaty, to bolster its buying team.

Earlier in the market, Korea's Showbox Mediaplex snapped up Nutcracker: The True Story from Odyssey Entertainment and Chilled In Miami from Mandate International.

Also at this market, Eureka signed on for Richard Kelly's $30m horror project The Box, sold by The Weinstein Company. Other Korean distributors to recently step up buying activity are CM Entertainment (formerly Inmoa), which teamed with Showbox to buy Wong Kar-wai's My Blueberry Nights, and Sponge Entertainment, which focuses on arthouse titles.

Currently the sixth largest international territory, with revenues of $1.86bn from theatrical, home video and online platforms, Korea has been quiet on the buying front in recent years due to the combined dominance of its local product and US studio titles.

However, spiralling budgets and a decline in box office for local films is opening up the market for foreign product. The market share of local films dropped to 45.7% in the first half of 2007, compared to 64.2% for the whole of 2006, while exports fell 57% compared to the first half of last year.

Several prominent US sales companies remarked on an increased volume of South Korean buyers at the market.

'We certainly remarked on the number of Korean buyers at this market
being far greater this year,' said Summit International's David Garrett. 'I think they are returning because the Korean audiences are tiring of local and Japanese productions and want to see more high-profile American fare.'

Garrett described this as a rebound from a couple of years ago when Korea was preoccupied with producing domestic films almost to the exclusion of buying foreign product.

'However over the last 12 to 18 months there has been a plethora of local Korean titles that haven't worked at the Korean box office, and it's cheaper to pick up a good foreign film than to make one,' Garrett said.

'What's interesting is that Japanese market is probably going through the same thing right now and I suspect we might see a similar reaction there when they revert to having a taste for foreign films.'

There are also signs that Korea is opening up to specialist product. Mirovision, which opened a hip arthouse theatre Mirospace in Seoul last year, has scored successes with high-end US and European commercial arthouse titles such as Marie-Antoinette, Little Miss Sunshine and Paris Je T'aime.