May 23, 2006


With the film quota system apparently cut by half, despite last ditch efforts to preserve it, Korea's film industry is facing its greatest challenges yet but it's rising to face them in fine style. So far this year, nine out of the ten top grossing movies are domestic releases, with only MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA slipping into tenth place. One Korean movie after another is grossing above the previous high-water mark of 5 million tickets with WELCOME TO DONGMAKOL and KING AND CLOWN being the two major hits from last year. Productions are being greenlit like crazy, with Korean companies borrowing cameras from Japan, and the schedule through the end of the year looks to be packed.

Choi Min-Shik and Bong Joon-Ho are conducting a silent vigil to protest the cutting of the screen quota system outside the Palais Lumiere in Cannes, but the far more effective protest seems to be occuring in Korea where audiences are rejecting foreign movies en masse and spending their money on domestic product, just like in America.

May 23, 2006 at 08:46 AM in News | Permalink


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Amazing...do you mean to tell me you don't need government holding your hand to succeed? I'm absolutely shocked!


Posted by: CTDeLude | May 23, 2006 6:11:03 PM

According to Tom Giammarco's box office reports on Darcy's site, this situation seems to have reversed just recently with the openings of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3 and DA VINCI CODE. Each US picture has dominated screens and admissions in Korea over the past few weeks. It's a familiar occurence. On the back of SILMIDO and TAEGUKGI, market share in the first quarter of 2004 was similarly high (mid-70%) to this year's before Hollywood's summer blockbusters (TROY, SHREK 2, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW) stemmed the flow.

We're still lacking the tremendously successful releases in May/June/July that might sustain very high domestic market share beyond the first three or four months of the year. The last relatively big summer for Korean films was 2001, when MY SASSY GIRL and KICK THE MOON were released. Generally, it seems that local producers of expensive mass entertainment films avoid summer openings due to the stiff competition from Hollywood. Maybe THE HOST can change things with a good box office performance this coming late-July.

Sorry to play devil's advocate.

Posted by: James Brown | May 23, 2006 6:19:51 PM

they're especially avoiding this Summer, with the World Cup. There's a few potential hits in June (Les Formidables with Park Joong-Hoon and Cheon Jung-Myung, and if there's justice, Eom Jung-Hwa's Piano flick and more), but it's mostly down to July 13 (KAng Woo-Suk's Hanbando) and 27 (The Host).

This year might not look 'successful' because of less 3+ Million ticket sellers, but since budgets are a little lower on the average, it's better to have 15-20 films sell 2 Million tickets than 1 selling over 10 and everyone else flopping.

Next week's presales for the Korean releases is already around 50%, so although it's likely Da Vinci Code and M:i3 will stay on top, I wouldn't piss in my pants like the Korean Press is doing (too used to Korean films raping all the competition, I guess).

Posted by: x | May 24, 2006 12:03:03 AM

that'd be 'if there's justice, Ryu Seung-Wan's City of Violence'

Posted by: x | May 24, 2006 12:05:21 AM

Kang Woo-suk usually sticks to December (TWO COPS, HOW TO TOP MY WIFE, SILMIDO) and Lunar New Year (PUBLIC ENEMY'S) openings. It's interesting that he's decided to lay down the gauntlet this time. Perhaps he believes there is a bit on an untapped potential for a domestic summer blockbuster?

Posted by: James Brown | May 24, 2006 12:58:23 AM

One thing Darcy's article on Variety pointed out was that the traditional new movie release dates - which seem to be Fall and WInter in Korea? - are heavily loaded with movies. So it looks like Korea may fall into the pattern of strong Winter, Fall, Spring and weak summers.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | May 24, 2006 3:32:18 AM

Post World Cup is quite interesting, you'd think if Korea does badly there people might want something to 'spice them up' and Hanbando is certainly that kind of film (although the Japanese surely won't like it). Personally, although I'm just speculating, I think Aachi & Ssipak (the crazy animation with Ryu Seung-Beom and Im Chang-Jung) might end up being the surprise of the Summer. Looks fun, it's full of things that appeal to the 'new' viewership (it's funny, vulgar, it has sex, gangsters, bike chases and interesting action) in Chungmuro. Especially if the team doesn't go through to the second round, the film debuts on June 22 and that's perfect timing.

Bong Joon-Ho is pretty much a guarantee for success even if the film is a little dark, as Memories of Murder is pretty much legendary there (not necessarily because it's phenomenal, it's all the cultural touches that people just loved) and he's in the Top 3 of star directors right now.

But Hanbando I don't know. Might get a lot of the nationalist viewership riled up, but I don't know if it will appeal to teenagers and young couples. I'm writing a little preview of the film right now and... jeez, this thing is meaty.

Summer was usually Horror territory, and although this year they're going at it again (with even more films, there's over half a dozen), there's nothing looking like a huge hit save for Ahn Byung-Gi's APT.

We'll see. I just think the Korean Media is panicking for nothing. I mean, can't have 70% for half the year and not go down a little for big films like that. Those two are the only foreign films to go up the Million since King Kong. That's a long time.

Posted by: x | May 24, 2006 3:41:14 AM

"One thing Darcy's article on Variety pointed out was that the traditional new movie release dates - which seem to be Fall and WInter in Korea? - are heavily loaded with movies. So it looks like Korea may fall into the pattern of strong Winter, Fall, Spring and weak summers."

It used to be something like this:

January - A couple of huge blockbusters a la Silmido and Taegukgi

Lunar New Year - Comedies and Melodramas, think HK Lunar New Year

Summer - Horror

Chuseok - Gangster Comedies and Big Films from important directors.

But production is increasing (looks like it might hit 100 this year), and the companies are trying to avoid competing with each other, so essentially those Season are sort of disappearing. I see release dates changing around every day, and it mostly feels like they're thinking 'let's pick a good Weekend' more than 'Let's plan for the summer'.

Of course that considers School vacations and the like now, since most of the audience is teenagers/students/young couples.

Posted by: x | May 24, 2006 3:46:48 AM

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