CJ hopes animated shark makes killing


Below is the excerpted article from the Korea Herald.

Food-processing giant's entertainment unit circles local premiere from U.S. investment stake

When the animated movie "Shark Tale" opens in local theaters on Friday, perhaps no one will be on the edge of their seats more than the executives of CJ Corp., the nation's food-processing giant.

The movie will be the first film by DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. to open in Korea since the U.S. studio went public in October 2004.

CJ Corp. bought a 4.95 percent stake in DreamWorks in 1995 through Lee Entertainment, a front company created for the investment. It is CJ's only investment in a foreign movie production studio and it has paid off: the initial public offering increased the value of CJ's shares to $217.4 million, or 240 billion won, as the company gained stakes in DreamWorks' distribution and production units.

Big audiences for "Shark Tale" here would be a boon not only for CJ Corp. but also its film distribution affiliate, CJ Entertainment Co. It would follow on the heels of CJ CGV, Korea's biggest movie chain, which rang up the second-largest IPO of 2004 on the Korea Stock Exchange, raising 145.5 billion won. CJ CGV is a subsidiary of CJ Entertainment, which owns 37 percent of CJ CGV stocks.

"Shark Tale has proven to be a success in the United States, and our company value goes up if DreamWorks Animation does well. If public response (of Shark Tale) in Korea is good, this will benefit both CJ Entertainment Co. and CJ Corp., since it is the key shareholder," said Mark Kim, head of CJ Corp.'s investor relations team.

DreamWorks had its first major hit with "Shrek 2," which opened last May. It became the highest grossing animated film at U.S. theaters.

In Korea, "Shrek 2" attracted 3 million viewers, a robust reception considering animation films do not have a high track record here, said CJ Entertainment.

The company does not expect "Shark Tale" to match "Shrek 2" in attendance, but does see solid ticket sales.

"Shark Tale" is designed to appeal to viewers of all ages. The protagonist, Oscar, a little fish with lofty ambitions and a reputation as a hustler, feigns the role as the great protector of the fish community after an accidental encounter. Oscar's act goes smoothly until the truth begins to unravel.

The digitally animated flick stars the voices of Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Rene Zellweger and Angelina Jolie.

"Although it's difficult to predict, I estimate that the film will draw about 1.5 million viewers, which would be considered a success," said O Kwang-hee, a spokesman for CJ Entertainment's strategy and planning division.


Still, just this one movie would not be enough to bolster stock value.

"A company's industry position plays a more fundamental role in boosting share value," explained O Kwang-hee.

"Shark Tale" is the fourth computer-generated animated feature by DreamWorks. The three preceding ones are "Antz," "Shrek" and "Shrek 2."

How well "Shark Tale" does at international box offices will be a major factor in its 2005 revenue. The movie maker releases only a few films a year, so it can ill afford a flop.

Local analysts say that the film's performance at the U.S. box office was not big enough to affect DreamWorks.

CJ Ent