Monday, August 5, 2013

Korean Box Office: Snowpiercer on Track as It Leads Biggest Weekend in Korean Film History

This first weekend in August is always a busy time in Korea and though this one was poised to post massive figures, few could have foreseen just how big it would be. Roughly 4.5 million tickets were sold this weekend, the first time the Fri-Sun frame has ever crossed the 4 million mark in Korea. By comparison, last year's powerful The Thieves-led frame brought in 3.69 million viewers. Even better news was a strong 80% (versus 58% in 2012) local market share, driven by a pair of huge new domestic hits.

TitleRelease DateMarket ShareWeekendTotalScreens
2The Terror Live13/07/3126.60%1,195,3451,836,450742
3Turbo (us)13/07/257.60%355,8611,382,961515
4The Smurfs 2 (us)13/08/016.00%293,892437,937478
5Red 2 (us)13/07/184.30%194,4542,756,415381
6Cold Eyes13/07/031.20%54,7845,458,567214
7The Wolverine (us)13/07/251.20%54,5401,032,178259
8Mister Go13/07/170.80%40,6791,301,276145
9Doraemon: The Movie (jp)13/07/250.30%15,366110,78080
10Pacific Rim (us)13/07/110.50%15,1192,531,74244

Leading the frame with a 50.5% market share and the biggest weekend performance for a Korean film of all time was the hotly anticipated Snowpiercer, the new sci-fi epic by Bong Joon-ho. The film scored 2,260,191 admissions over the three days, behind only Transformers 3's 2.36 million start in 2011. What's more the film opened on Wednesday and has already accrued 3.3 million admissions. This is only behind Secretly Greatly's 3.49 million start earlier this summer, though that had a national holiday to rely on and a more frontloaded run (its first five days accounted for half of its entire haul).

Early reservations are down from 70% on Wednesday to 50% today so Snowpiercer won't stay flat this coming weekend, like previous Korean blockbusters have been known to do, but it seems in good shape for another massive haul. With $21 million banked already (mostly in distributor CJ's own theater chain CGV) and another $20 million in presales to foreign territories, Snowpiercer has almost recouped its $39.6 million budget, the highest in Korean film history. Looking ahead, a 7-8 million admissions total seems assured while 10 million is very much a possibility. However, while a lot of the word of mouth is strong, there are many people who were not keen on Bong's latest opus, which will likely prevent this from topping his own The Host, which scored 13 million admissions in 2006.

As if Snowpiercer's success wasn't enough, another new local thriller was a big presence on the chart. The Terror Live, starring Ha Jung-woo, managed 1,195,354 admissions against the sci-fi behemoth and has already amassed 1.84 million sales in five days. Word of mouth is solid on the film and it is likely to remain strong on the chart. A 5 million finish is within reach.

US animation Turbo had a stellar second weekend, benefitting from choice counter-programming, as it dipped only 10% and added 355,861 admissions to its haul, which is now almost over 1.4 million. At this point in its run, 2 million looks likely. At number four, The Smurfs 2 also got off to a decent start with 293,892 admissions over the frame.

After two big number one finishes, Red 2 suffered a big 70% drop against the incoming thrillers for only 194,454. However, with 2.76 million tickets banked, the Hollywood sequel has already far outstripped its predecessor. It was a similar story in the rest of the top 10 as the bottom 5 all experienced heavy drops as they were forced to cede their theaters to new blockbusters.

Snowpiercer and The Terror Live will have no trouble repeating at number one and two as the only major release next weekend is the animation Epic.


The Korean Box Office Update is a weekly feature which provides detailed analysis of film box office sales over the Friday to Sunday period in Korea. It appears every Sunday night (Korean Standard Time) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean ReviewsReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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