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Trend in 2007 box-office success in Korean film industry, "The naming value of a star and the number of audience are in inverse proportion"

2008/01/07 Source

"What is the interrelationship between the naming value of a star and the number of audience?"

In conclusion, the interrelationship is inverse proportion according to the trend in 2007 box-office success in Korean film industry. Among the 100 movies released this year, only 4 movies had more than 3 million audiences, including "D-War" (8 million), "May 18" (7 million), "Voice of a Murderer" (3.25 million) and "Le Grand Chef" which recently reached 3 million.

Among many movies that went into the black, following are those which closely reached the break-even point, including "Miracle on 1st Street" (Im Chang-jung and Ha Ji-won), "Voice of a Murderer" (Sol Kyung-gu and Kim Nam-joo), "May 18" (Kim Sang-kyung and Lee Yo-won), "D-War" (Jason Behr), "Paradise Murdered" (Park Hae-il and Sung Ji-ru), and "Le Grand Chef" (Kim Kang-woo and Lee Ha-na). Among the 100 movies released this year, only 7% made a profit.

However, all movies that drew attention for top stars' appearance have failed. Ko So-young's come back movie, "Go Go Sister", Gang Dong-won's "M", Song Hye-kyo's "Hwang Jin Yi", Shin Hyun-joon's "Three Kims", Uhm Jung-hwa and Han Chae-young's "Changing Partners" have been rejected by the audiences. Top star, Kim Tae-hee's 2nd movie "Venus and Mars" is also having a hard time.

The naming value of directors had also drawn an inverse proportional line with the success of their work. Director Lee Chang-dong ("Secret Sunshine"), Lee Myung-se ("M") and Heo Jin-ho ("Happiness") made their come back but failed to attract audience. On the contrary, new and nameless directors such as "Kim Ji-hoon" ("May 18"), Kim Han-min and Jeon Yoon-soo ("Le Grand Chef") have touched the audiences' hearts and brought successes to their movies.

Following is the summary of trend in 2007 Korean film industry, which moved against the naming values of top stars.

◆ Fall of top stars vs rise of supporting actors

As commonly happened in previous years, many stars have returned to screen this year. The actors in 30s age group including Im Chang-jung, Uhm Jung-hwa, Tak Jae-hoon and Shin Hyun-joon; and 20s age group such as Gang Dong-won, Song Hye-kyo, Daniel Henney have made reasonably active moves but the result wasn't as good as their efforts. They either received a harsh criticism or only reached half success.

The age of having a top star's name as a guaranteed ticket to success of the film has passed. The audiences have turned their back on the top stars as many of them shows no progress whatsoever and only focused on image-making processes. Therefore they spend more time on commercial advertisement than acting to improve their commercial values. As result, some beautiful female stars received merciless criticism and fail to attract audiences.

A good example is Song Hye-kyo and Kim Tae-hee. Song Hye-kyo made a come back to screen in 2 years with 10 billion-won worth large-scaled film, "Hwang Jin Yi" but failed a big time. She was criticised to unable to produce a proper acting for a historical drama and brought a large loss to the production company as she only had 1 million audiences.

'Intellect beauty star' Kim Tae-hee was also unable to break her bad luck in screen. Her debut film was "The Restless", which was released on December 2006, but it only gave her a tag on the back that says 'a bad actress'. On her second film, "Venus and Mars" she tried to change her character. However, the result and criticism was harsh. On the first week of release, there was only 0.3 million audiences. Even adding the 0.4 million audiences came to watch "The Restless", not even a million people have seen Kim Tae-hee's movies.

On the contrary, the 'hidden pearls' were shining this year. The supporting actors who rely on their acting skills rather than good appearance have made a rapid progress over those top stars that showed no improvements. These 'hidden pearls' include Jung Jae-young, Park Chul-min, Sung Ji-ru and Kim Kang-woo, who have both individuality and excellent talents to bring success to the films and acted as a mainstay in the films that had no top stars in it.

Jung Jae-young was the one leading actor in "Going by the Book" and succeed in attracting 2 million audiences; and Park Chul-min added his tasty performance in gathering 7 million audiences for "May 18". Kim Kang-woo and Lee Ha-na showed off their talent in no-top-star-film "Le Grand Chef" in bringing 3 million audiences to the screen.

◆ Fall of star directors vs rise of new and nameless directors

Also there were many cases in which the directors have also failed to reach their naming value. The star directors who previously received a strong support from audiences for their unique world of directing ideals have either bring out a disappointing work or failed to escape from their own world. They have also failed in attracting audiences. However, the new and nameless directors have replaced their places and had the success of 2007 Korean film industry under their thumbs.

Good examples include Director Kim Han-min, Ra Hee-chan ("Going by the Book"), Kim Ji-hoon ("May 18") and Jeon Yoon-soo ("Le Grand Chef"). A common ground in which these directors share together is that they are new and nameless. Except Director Jeon Yoon-soo ("Le Grand Chef"), it was their first time for them to direct the production of a movie.

When looking at the success of the movies, however, they achieved as good as any other star directors. "Paradise Murdered", "Going by the Book", "May 18" and "Le Grand Chef" have all cleared 2 million scores and brought profits to their production agencies. In addition, their unique individuality and sensitivity have invigorated the Korean film industry.

On the other hand, the established directors weren't as active as they used to be. Maybe it's because that the star directors such as Bong Joon-ho, Choi Dong-hoon and Park Chan-wook haven't bring up their new works but only focusing on scenarios at the moment. The come back movies of numerous leading directors only brought up new gossips and topics and totally failed in popularity-wise.

Director Lee Myung-se brought "M" with Gang Dong-won as the leading actor. The abstruse plot where reality and fantasy crosses had a strong support from small mania groups but unable to achieve popularity among a wider range of groups. Director Kwak Gyeong-taeks's "a LOVE" and Director Heo Jin-ho's "Happiness" have also received two opposite criticism that "the directors aren't as good as they used to be" and "the return of great directors" and brought 2 million and a million audiences each.

While many established directors were unable to play their part, there are some who maintained their heads high. The hero is Director Lee Chang-dong, who made a come back in 5 years. By bringing Jeon Do-yeon and Song Kang-ho into international actors, he showed off his talented directing skills to the world. Of course, unlike the honour of the Cannes, he needed to be satisfied with 1.7 million audiences in Korea.

◆ The Korean film industry is at a critical point, there are too many hollow stars

The Korean film industry is obsessed with top stars. Therefore these stars take up a great importance in the film industry. However, it is a serious problem to appoint those stars who aren't even equipped with confident acting skills, to a leading role in a movie.

For example, in a film with 4 billion-won production bill, the star's guarantee takes up about 20%. The skyrocketing guarantees of stars immediately lead to deterioration in the conditions of film making. Also there were many movies that failed even though they have appointed big stars as the leading character.

There's an unrevealed circumstances to the production agencies that pay a high guarantee to popular stars even though they have no talent in acting. By appointing a popular star as the leading character, it has an automatic marketing effect as well as a huge influence of the star's name in their movie poster. However, as the audiences' level heightened, the number of fans who visit cinema with sole trust on the star's name rapidly reduced.

In Hollywood, the talent and guarantee is in proportion. Excellent actors such as Robert De Niro, Alfred Pacino and Sean Penn receive the top annual salary of $15 million. However, the trend in Korea suggests the popularity is in inverse proportion with their talents. It is common cases where talented actors aren't getting a proper treatment.

In order for a film industry to progress, the talents of directing people are an essential component. The reason that the Korean film industry had been staggering in 2007 was because the popular top stars had been allowed to lead an entire movie by themselves rather than by talented actors. In order to not to repeat the same mistake that "A naming value of a star does not guarantee everything", we expect both director and actors to discipline themselves and put a greater effort to enhance the overall quality of their films.

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