“Sound of Freedom,” the indie action-drama film that earned some $184 million at the North American box office, has set a significant theatrical release in South Korea.
Angel Studios, the crowd-funded Utah-based production and distribution firm behind the film, initially set up direct-to-theater releases for the film’s first international outings in the U.K., Australia and Latin America.
In Korea, rights have been licensed in conventional fashion by the N.E.W. – Contents Panda group, which plans to give the picture a release from Feb. 21, 2024. N.E.W. will in turn partner up with CJ-CGV, Korea’s largest cinema circuit, and Cine Q, a smaller chain controlled by N.E.W., giving the film an initial outing in 100-130 screens, with seating capacity of up to 40,000.
A N.E.W., spokesman told Variety that both CGV and Cine Q are planning a limited number of pre-release teaser screenings. Some of these will use the Pay-It-Forward scheme that was part of the film’s grassroots appeal in North America. PIF allows patrons to donate tickets to others and, according to the film’s director Alejandro Monteverde, accounted for less than 10% of its North American box office.
Part of the marketing campaign will lean heavily towards introduction of the PIF system, which is not widespread in Korea. Using social media, N.E.W. will create a challenge game encouraging audiences to relay tickets to each other like a baton. Each person who has watched the film can – with the aid of a photo or video of their original ticket – toss it to three others.
“We think it’s going to provide a good opportunity for everyone to have an experience of ticket sharing and donation,” said the N.E.W. spokesman. Korea has one of the world’s highest per capita cinema attendance rates.
Other details of the Korean marketing campaign are still being developed. They seem likely, however, to emphasize the film’s breakout success in North America. Its status as a ‘faith-based’ film would also seem a logical avenue, given that South Korea is predominantly Christian.
Monteverde wrote and directed the thriller, which is based on the true story of Tim Ballard (portrayed by “The Passion of the Christ” actor Jim Caviezel), a former government agent who embarks on a mission to rescue children from sex traffickers in Colombia. Mira Sorvino and Bill Camp co-star.
In America, religious and conservative media groups rallied behind the film, earning it the label “the people’s movie” from Angel Studios and “the opposite of the top-down system of Hollywood gatekeepers.”
Critics of the film accused it of embellishing the reality of child exploitation and stoking political conspiracy theories. Some comments by Caviezel and Ballard appeared to reference tropes by the conspiracy movement QAnon. And former-U.S. president Donald Trump is known to have hosted a screening of the picture in July last year.
Monteverde has distanced himself from the faith-based depiction of the movie. He has also denied any connection to the conspiracy theories, pointing out that the film was developed in 2014, some two years before the emergence of QAnon.