By Lee Hyo-won
Every summer, big budget Hollywood movies flow in, and many worry about the potential threat to homegrown films. Recent trends, however, suggest that competition is healthy.
"The fact that such a comparison (between national and international franchises) is even possible is unique; there aren't so many countries around the world where domestic films can compete with American ones", Han Seung-hee, researcher at the Korean Film Council, told The Korea Times.
After the turn of the new millennium, the Korean film industry enjoyed rapid growth, with blockbusters rewriting box office history each year. But the market plummeted for the first time last year, and investment and production hit an all time low. Moviegoers even criticized films that fared well at the box office as being formulaic.
So far, 2009 looks better. The success of "A Frozen Flower
" and "Scandal Makers" ("Speedy Scandal
") opened up a promising new year. Although February and March were rather lukewarm months _ viewership was split among three crime thrillers, "The Scam
", "Marine Boy
" and "Hand Phone"
_ "Private Eye
" picked things up and was widely loved for its unique themes.
Sleeper hit movies such as "Old Partner"
also revamped the cinema scene, proving that small budget films can make it big. Despite what was anticipated to be a tough competition against star-studded imports like "Star Trek: The Beginning" and "Terminator 4", "My Girlfriend is an Agent
" reaped large profits. Park Chan-wook
's Cannes Jury Prize winning "Thirst"
also faired well.
It's too early to tell, however, whether the box office successes can help turn around the conservative attitude in funding and producing films. Filmmakers are still largely opting for mid-budget films that pose lower risks. What is notable, said Han, is that the general public sentiment has been markedly positive. "The novel subject matter of films has been highly regarded by moviegoers", she said.
Meanwhile, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen", the sequel to the highest grossing foreign film here, has attracted more than 2.8 million viewers in one week since its release June 24.
"This could be good news for the Korean films that are coming. When a movie, be it foreign or homegrown, creates a hype, then people look forward to the films that can take over the baton", said Han.
Anticipated Summer Blockbusters
The theater can provide refuge from the sticky and wet weather, and moviegoers can look forward to movies featuring distinct themes and the hottest screen personalities.
is drawing attention for its unusual subject matter and demanding use of computer-generated imagery (CGI). It is about a wild hog that develops a taste for human flesh and terrorizes a peaceful mountainous village. Popular actor Uhm Tae-woong
) stars as a police officer that must stop the homicidal beast. To be released July 16. Distributed by Lotte Entertainment.
Also hitting screens later this month is "Haeundae"
, a mega-action film about a tsunami consuming Korean beaches. A-list actors Sul Kyung-gu
("Venus and Mars
"), Ha Ji-won
'), Park Joong-hoon
("The Truth About Charlie") and Uhm Jung-hwa
") appear in the project headed by Youn J.K. (Yoon Jae-kyoon"Miracle on 1st Street
"). In a press release, the director emphasized that he wanted to create a "very human" film that will inspire both laughter and tears, and most importantly, stand apart from typical Hollywood disaster flicks. In theaters July 23. Distributed by CJ Entertainment.
Next month comes another unique film, "A Million"
, featuring hot screen stars Park Hae-il
"), Shin Min-a
("The Naked Kitchen
"), Park Hee-soon
") and Lee Min-ki
"). This action thriller is set in the isolated seaside, desert and forests of Perth, Australia, where eight participants must survive to win the prize of 1 billion won on a reality TV show. Coming to screens Aug. 6. Distributed by Sidus FNH.
Last year, Yim Soon-rye
brought the world's first handball film "Forever the Moment
", and this summer, "200 Pounds Beauty
" director Kim Yong-hwa
brings an unprecedented film about ski jumping, called "Take Off"
. "It" actor Ha Jung-woo
("My Dear Enemy
") shows the struggles of pitifully equipped athletes. Slated for release on July 30. Distributed by Showbox/Mediaplex.