By Cho Jin-seo
Prepare an extra battery, and your phone will turn into a palm theater on commuter buses and subways.
SK Telecom said it is bringing more than 200 Hollywood blockbusters, such as ``Spiderman 3'' and ``The DaVinci Code,'' to its mobile phones under a contract with Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The largest mobile service company, with some 22 million subscribers, said Monday that it inked a four-year deal with Sony Pictures Television International (SPTI) to provide between 50 and 60 old and new movie titles every year for mobile phones.
The SK Telecom-Sony Pictures partnership is one of the recent developments between Korean telecommunication firms and Hollywood filmmakers. KT and Hanarotelecom have signed with Warner Bros. and Walt Disney Pictures, respectively, to air their movie titles on Internet-Protocol TV. But SK Telecom's plan is the first to offer a wide range of full-length Hollywood movies for mobile phones in Korea, said the company's spokesman Lee Kyo-hyuk.
``We have already been offering several Korean movies on mobile phones, but this contract is different because of the brand value of Hollywood films,'' he said. He added that it is a comprehensive contract and SK Telecom will not pay additional commission to Sony Pictures.
SPTI also supplies full-length Hollywood movies to Italy mobile operator 3 Italia previously, according to its spokesman David Chau.
SK Telecom admitted that there will be practical problems for the palm theaters to become a hit. Along with the screen size, limited battery life will be a big hindrance to users, Lee said.
``Battery life is surely a problem, and we (phone manufacturers) hope to improve the matter in the future,'' he said.
The video-on-demand service will charge 1,000 to 2,000 won per title, excluding the data traffic fee. The company encourages users to subscribe to unlimited data traffic options for the movie service, so that they do not receive phone bills with a high data fee.
Sony Pictures is one of the six major Hollywood studios, with Columbia Pictures and TriStar Pictures under its umbrella. It is also a major shareholder of Metro-Goldwin-Mayer (MGM). SPTI is a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment and is responsible for distribution of Sony Pictures films for television, mobile and Internet media.
It is not the first time for SK Telecom to show interest in the movie business. The firm has been expanding to the entertainment sector to secure movie, music and TV contents for mobile phones. It has operated the world's first satellite mobile TV service through its subsidiary (TU Media) since 2005. It also invested in a number of Korean movies, including the 2007 hit ``The Host,'' via subsidiaries.
This year, SK Telecom starts the film distribution business by itself with the upcoming adventure movie ``Once Upon a Time.'' The company invested about 20 percent of the 6-billion-won production budget of the film, which is to be released in local cinemas this weekend.