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Korean films' renaissance with box office success

2012/09/01 | 664 views |  | Permalink | Source

The Korean film industry is having a renaissance recently, with renewed success at the domestic box office.

Local films topped the country's top-ten box office chart last weekend, with Korean movies taking up all first four places in ticket sales.

According to statistics provided by the Korean Film Council on August 27, nearly eight out of ten moviegoers watched Korean films last weekend. The four Korean blockbuster films - "Neighbors", "The Grand Heist", "The Thieves", and "R2B: Return to Base" in that order - made up 77 percent of ticket sales over the weekend from August 24 through 26.

It can be almost called a resurgence of Korean films as they are taking away ticket sales from recent Hollywood blockbusters such as Total Recall, Step Up Revolution, and The Dark Night Rises. Such success comes for the first time in three years since 2009 when two Korean films - "Take Off" and "Haeundae" - swept the Korean box office.

"Neighbors", a thriller featuring Hollywood actress Kim Yoon-jin, drew a crowd of 782,229 over the weekend, taking up 31.1 percent of ticket sales in monetary value. The movie is about a serial killer and a girl slain by the man and neighbors who came to realize the existence of the killer. The film was adapted from a webtoon of the same title by Kang Full. Its view count surpassing one million in only five days, the cumulative view count stands at 1,095,746, according to the film council. It is considered a huge success considering that the film is rated R19. "The Grand Heist", an action film set in the Joseon Dynasty starring actor Cha Tae-hyun, took second place in the same weekend. The film is a heist story about taking revenge against a greedy aristocrat who took control of the ice supply. The film attracted 537,470 viewers over the weekend.

Next is "The Thieves", which has already garnered 12,095,090 viewers by adding 513,823 over the weekend. There has been a lot of talk over whether it may break the record as the highest-grossing Korean film. The current record is 13 million by "The Host" in 2006.

The plot centers on a gang of Korean and Chinese thieves gathered in Macau by legendary thief Macao Park played by Kim Yun-seok to steal a USD 20 million diamond. However, it turns out that they all want to keep the diamond for themselves. There are a series of reversals that add to the fun of watching the film.

"R2B: Return to Base", an action film starring K-pop singer and actor Rain, is about a group of fighter pilots battling enemies over the skyscrapers of Seoul. The new action film has been purchased by over 30 nations already.

The Korean film market share stood at 53.4 percent in the first half of this year, and it inched up a bit in July to 57.7 percent. In the first 26 days of August, the figure rose to 69.3 percent.

According to the Korean Film Council, Korean films' share climbed to 51.9 percent for the whole of 2011, the first time the figure reached 50 percent since hitting 49.9 percent in 2007. However, the figure dropped to 42.8 percent in 2008, climbing to 48.7 percent in 2009 and declining again to 46.6 percent in 2010. From January through August in 2012, local films' share reached 55.3 percent, and for the entire year the figure is expected to easily surpass last year's.

The increased share is largely attributed to a series of box office hits beginning early this year. Local films released in the first half such as "Architecture 101", "Dancing Queen", "Everything about my Wife", "Deranged", and "Nameless Gangster" all drew more than four million viewers each.

"The number of total viewers (including double count) by the end of this year is expected to hit 170 million", said Kim Eui-suk, chairman of the Korean Film Council, in a recent interview. "The local film industry is expected to enjoy a boom this year, a kind of heyday the country experienced in the late 1960s".

This is a relief to the local film industry, as the screen quota system that required local movie theaters to screen Korean films for a certain number of days per year has been reduced from 146 days to 106 in 1998 and again to 73 in 2006. Then, local film industry workers took to the streets and shaved their heads in protest of the quota reduction. Six years have passed since the last adjustment in the quota but Korean films are enjoying another boom. Even the screen quota seems unnecessary. Korea is one of the few countries in the world where locally made films survive against Hollywood blockbusters and enjoy such a high market share.

A number of factors are attributed to the recent success. Diverse genres of films are able to attract viewers in their 30s and 40s. According to Maxmovie, a film reservation website, those in their 30s or older accounted for 73 percent of reserved ticket sales for "The Thieves", while the rest was taken up by those in their teen and 20s. The extreme heat during this summer also played a role. "The number of viewers increased compared to the same period last year", a CGV employee said in an interview. "A long hot summer led to an increase in night viewers and many of them chose Korean films after hearing their reputation through word of mouth".

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