Do More Foreign Remakes Now Mean Less Originals?

by Anthony Kaufman
May 5, 2006 1:00 AM
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Is the announcement of Bridge Films -- a new company aimed at acquiring remake rights for foreign-language films -- a blessing or a curse for the distribution of overseas fare in the U.S.? A few years ago, I wrote a story for indieWIRE called "Why Studio Remakes Don't Suck: U.S. Versions Rebound Foreign Originals" where industry execs made a persuasive case for the positive force of remakes: increased awareness for the original on DVD. As the Korean Film Commission's Kwang Woo Noh said at the time, "It's better to be sold for a remake than not to be sold at all."

But now I'm not so sure. As fewer major companies release foreign language films (is the departure of MJ Pekos from Tartan another bad sign for foreign film distribution?), I wonder whether this is just one more way to keep these titles from theaters. With Bridge Films scouring the world for remake rights, what does this do to the availability of U.S. rights? Are they simply tossed aside? Does it drive up the price?

When Bridge Films's Matthew A. Riklin says, "I was always struck by the number of superb films produced around the world that never saw the light of day in the U.S.," does he think that he's actually helping them? No, he's helping the studios. In the announcement, he says, "From a business perspective, it made sense to capitalize on the creative work already done, which can greatly shorten the time and investment required by American studios to bring these projects to the marketplace." I guess paying foreign filmmakers off may help to fuel industries abroad. But I still feel like it's a double-edged deal.

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