Song Joon-ki starring sci-fi flick 'Space Sweepers' not released in cinemas


Tae-Ho (Song Joong-ki) is a pilot of a spaceship, who's willing to do anything for money in 'Space Sweepers'. Photos: Handout

The first Korean sci-fi blockbuster set in space, Space Sweeper, will be released exclusively on Netflix. The film was scheduled to open in theatres on Sept 23, but the release was postponed due to Covid-19, and there are now no immediate plans to show the film in theatres.

Set in 2092, Space Sweepers by director Jo Sung-hee is about a space cleanup crew trying to sell a weapon of mass destruction: the humanoid Dorothy. With a star-studded cast including Song Joon-ki and Kim Tae-ri, Space Sweepers was a highly anticipated movie that theatres hoped would revive the Korean movie industry suffering from the pandemic.

However, Netflix’s recent announcement dashed all such hopes.

Space Sweepers was made with IP (intellectual property) expansion as a premise, with the making of movies series, spin-off video content, a webtoon and games among other content with the same universe in mind. We decided to show Space Sweepers through Netflix because of the unavoidable Covid-19 pandemic situation,” said You Jeong-hun, CEO of distributor Merry Christmas.

“Also, the line between traditional distribution methods and digital distribution is disappearing and we cannot keep delaying the release as we need to set grounds for expansion of our IP.”

Space Sweepers is not the first theatrical film to premiere on a streaming platform, as many movies this year, including The Call and Time To Hunt, opted to show via Netflix over theatres.

By choosing Netflix, movies will be available to the streaming service’s 195 million members in 190 countries around the world with subtitles in 31 languages. Also, releasing on the streaming service has the advantage of being financially less risky.

While moviemakers can earn more by becoming a box office smash, the financial losses, should the movie fail, could be substantial. By showing on Netflix for a fixed price, moviemakers hand the financial risk to Netflix.

“We cannot tell you the details of the contract, but Netflix assumes all revenue-associated risks that can vary depending on the film’s performance," said a Netflix official.

While the details of the deal have not been disclosed, culture critic Ha Jae-geun expects a movie the calibre of Space Sweeper would have gotten a decent offer from Netflix, although the price would be less than if the movie scored big in theatres.

“During the Covid-19 situation when a movie’s success is uncertain, the Netflix option can offer leeway. With a blockbuster movie like Space Sweeper going to Netflix, many moviemakers will recognise Netflix as a viable option,” said Ha.

Don't mess with captain Jang (Kim Tae-Ri, right). You can do that with Tiger Park (Jin Seon-Kyu) though.  Don't mess with captain Jang (Kim Tae-Ri, right). You can do that with Tiger Park (Jin Seon-Kyu) though.

However, the 24 billion-won (RM88mil) blockbuster was confident of a box office success had it not been for the pandemic situation.

Movie theatres in South Korea that were hoping Space Sweepers would bring life to cinemas are facing further challenges as the social distancing level was heightened this week.

“It’s unfortunate that we cannot show Space Sweepers in our theatres because of distributor Merry Christmas’ decision. But it’s not like we don’t understand their decision because of the special circumstance of Covid-19,” said an official of Lotte Cinema, a multiplex chain.

“We are still watching out for the lineup for December releases which has yet to be finalised because of the Cvoid-19 situation in the Greater Seoul area.”

The official release date for Space Sweepers on Netflix has yet to be announced.

“To be honest, since the early stages of the production, our goal was to sell 10 million tickets in local theatres, and we had confidence in our work,” said an official at Merry Christmas. – The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

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