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Universal Int'l Quenches Thirst For Vampires

Universal Pictures and Focus Features have bought into director Park Chan-wook's vampire film THIRST, now in production, per VARIETY.

This is the first time a Korean film has received American studio money and a U.S. distribution contract before its local release. Universal and Focus will invest in and co-produce THIRST, which up until now has been produced by Korean major CJ Ent.

Focus will release the film in North America, while CJ will handle the remaining international sales rights, and distribute the film in South Korea.

THIRST stars Song Kang-ho (SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, THE HOST, THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE WEIRD), Shin Ha-kyun (SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE) and Kim Ok-bi (DASEPO NAUGHTY GIRLS).

The film, with unusually risque elements, is about a priest who participates in a medical experiment to find a cure for a deadly disease, with deadly repercussions. It is scheduled to be finished for a festival opening in mid-2009.

"THIRST is especially exciting for us, as it's the first time a major studio has co-produced with a South Korean entertainment company in this way," said Universal Studios International President Christian Grass. "Park Chan-wook is one of the most talented and influential Korean directors working today."

"First, this is a vote of confidence in CJ and director Park, but also having a film of this scale get the backing of a major studio in North America opens up an opportunity for all Korean films," said Katharine Kim, exec VP and head of international at CJ. "Second, it is important to us to have Universal and Focus' financial commitment while the film is in production."

Park won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 2003 for OLD BOY and had another hit in 2005 with LADY VENGEANCE, which both sold internationally after their Korean release.

Grass, Universal SVP and GM of worldwide acquisitions Jason Resnick and Kim are overseeing production.

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