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'Old Partner' Eyes 2M Mark, Feels Strain of Success

2009/02/20 | 130 views |  | Permalink | Source

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The movie is attracting tens of thousands in their 50s and 60s who usually seldom visit theaters
Jean K. Min (jean)

"Old Partner", a touching human documentary about an unusual relationship between an old farmer and his 40-year-old ox has sold over 1 million tickets as of Friday and looks on track for the 2 million mark.

IndieStory, the film's distributor says the movie passed 1 million viewers Friday afternoon, 37 days after its opening on Jan. 15. The former sales record held for a documentary film is by Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11", which sold 450,000 tickets.

Some film marketers predict that it would even pass 2 million-mark if it keeps selling seats at current rate; "Old Partner" is drawing 50,000 to 60,000 viewers during weekdays and around 100,000 on weekends.

Many industry observers agree. The movie is attracting tens of thousands of viewers in their 50s and 60s who usually seldom visit theaters, which in itself is a good sign that it has broken into the mass market.

"Old Partner" opened with just seven screens January but gradually expanded the number to 140 as favorable on-line reviews start to flow in after initial screening, attracting attention of mainstream media.

Director Lee Chung-ryoul confessed however that he was personally overwhelmed by the unusual amount of media attention to the movie and Choi's family.

Despite his growing concern about too much exposure, "Old Partner" scored another big publicity coup last Sunday when President Lee Myung-bak himself paid a surprise visit to a local theater to see the movie. Director Lee was invited to the theater to brief him about the movie.

He told OhmyNews Monday that he shared his concerns with the president about the worsening situation for Korean Indie film producers -- Lee administration's new film industry policy has been widely criticized for suffocating creative vitality of the fledgling industry by terminating subsidy for marketing indie films and slashing fund for a proposed multiplex theater dedicated to screening art house films.

Presidential publicity coup aside, the success of "Old Partner" seems to be partly indebted to the sudden onset of introspective mood among Koreans in the wake of severe financial crisis. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", a David Fincher film that invites movie fans to look inside their deep inner self and ponder about the meaning of life is also a box office hit in Korea this week, despite near three hour-long running time.

With tens of thousands of mourners lining up to Myungdong Cathedral this week to pay a last tribute to Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, Koreans seem to be basking in grand introspection even in the theaters, located just a few steps from the cardinal's funeral.

2009 OhmyNews

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