Showing posts with label unbowed. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unbowed. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Top 10 Korean Films of 2012

2013 has just gotten underway and what better way for MKC to ring in the new year than to reflect on what has simply been a gargantuan year for Korean cinema. The vaunted 10 million admissions club welcomed two new members as The Thieves and Masquerade rode their way into the top three of the all time Korean box office chart. Indeed commercial cinema across the board enjoyed spectacular success as well over 100 million tickets were sold to domestic films at the Korean box office, a first for the industry. As of this writing seven films have crossed 4 million admissions (with an eighth on the way in the form of The Tower). What's more Kim Ki-duk became the first Korean filmmaker to prevail at one of the big three European film festivals as he took home the Golden Lion from Venice for his 18th feature Pieta. Elsewhere on the festival circuit a flurry of Korean films took home big awards, including Juvenile Offender, Barbie, The Weight, Circle Line, and many more.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

49th Daejong Film Awards: Masquerade Wins... Everything

The largest movie awards show returned tonight as it held its 49th edition in Seoul. As the size and prestige of the industry has risen over the years, so has this awards show, which could be seen as Korean cinema's equivalent to the Oscars. It's not the only awards show in town as the Blue Dragon Awards, which take place in November, are also fairly prominent, but it's the longest running and the one with the highest profile.

Last year a couple of films, all with big box office tallies took home most of the awards but this year's event fortunately featured a few smaller films in the mix, not least Kim Ki-duk's Pieta, which picked up the Venice Film Festival's top prize, the Golden Lion, only a few weeks ago. The nominees list is still largely dominated by commercial hits, as this awards show as not traditionally been kind to independent fare, but it's nice to see a few make the cut. Though in the end it seems the variety was all for nought.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Weekly Review Round-up (05/12-05/18, 2012)

A lot of reviews this week and many of them for a trio of action/war film which are currently making the rounds in North America, either in theatres or on the home video market.  I'm thrilled to see such interest in these titles but the fact that they all stem from the same genre doesn't really give me high hopes for expanding English-language consumers interest in the broader Korean film industry.  THese titles just confirm that Korean cinema, at present, is still viewed as a niche genre industry abroad, which couldn't be further from the truth.  Sigh...

Also from now on you may notice a few more Twitch reviews as I have been taken on as their Korean correspondent.



(Twitch, May 12, 2012)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Unbowed (부러진 화살, Bureojin Hwasal) 2012

In June of this year, two Korean actors will be feted at the famed Grauman’s Chinese theatre on Hollywood Blvd., where they will have their hand and footprints cast in the pavement; the first Asian performers to be honoured in such a way. One is Lee Byung-hyun who, rather than being one of the nation’s best or most long-standing thespians, is the one with the highest international profile. He is making a name for himself in the US industry and will soon be seen in G.I. Joe 2 and then the sequel to Red (2011). In fact, the former will be opening mere days following the aforementioned ceremony so his selection does smack of opportunism.

However, the second star has all the hallmarks of greatness that such a distinction would indicate, and then some. Ahn Sung-ki is a legend in the Korean film industry and is probably its most respected star. One of his earliest roles was in Kim Ki-young’s The Housemaid (1960) and he starred in a series of classics starting in the 1980s, such as A Fine, Windy Day (1980), Im Kwon-taek’s Mandala (1981), Whale Hunting (1984), Park Kwang-su’s Chilsu and Mansu (1988), The Taebaeck Mountains (1994, also Im Kwon-taek), Lee Myeong-se’s Nowhere to Hide (1999) and many, many more. Even now he is still one of the country’s top working actors and earlier this year he proved that he could still draw in the crowds just as well as anybody. He has won the Grand Bell Award (the Korean Oscar equivalent) no less than six times but he seems almost certain to pick up his seventh accolade later this year for his latest performance.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Korean Cinema News (05/03-05/09, 2012)

UPDATE 1:50pm (GMT+1) - The KOFA Classic Korean Film youtube channel goes live!  More details below.

More developments on upcoming features Mister K and Remember O Goddess this week as well as a strong selection of interviews and a free one-day Korean film seminar in London.


KOFA's Classic Korean Film Youtube channel goes live!
The Korean Film Archive has launched its much anticipated "Korean Classic Film Theater" Youtube channel which features 70 different hard to find titles, all free and with English subtitles.  The films range from 1949's A Hometown in My Heart to Hong Sang-soo's 1996 debut The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well. Numerous classic Im Kwon-taek, Kim Ki-young and Shin Sang-ok films are featured as well as many of the most important Korean films of the past decades, including Yu Hyun-mok's Aimless Bullet (aka Obaltan, 1961), Park Kwang-su's Chilsu and Mansu (1988), or the original hostess film, Yeongja's Heyday (1976).

I'm dying to get stuck into the many I haven't seen but I highly recommend Im Kwon-taek's Sopyonje (1993), Kim Ki-young' Ieoh Island (aka Iodo, 1977) and the aforementioned Aimless Bullet.  Truly a phenomenal resource from KOFA and cause for celebration for all Korean film fans!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Udine Far East Film Festival Day IX Report

Ongoing reports on the 14th Udine International Film Festival which Modern Korean Cinema will be covering onsite.

And so Udine comes to a close it's been a great week and I just got back in a moment ago.  Here are my thoughts on the last day's films and tomorrow I will recap the whole week.

The Divine Bow
(South Korea, 1979)

Im Kwon-taek’s second film of the retrospective was also the third island drama in the programme.  After the motherhood themes of Kim Ki-young’s Iodo (1977) and the changing roles of women examined in Kim Soo-young’s Splendid Outing (1978), Im’s The Divine Bow also featured a female protagonist but this time the focal point was shamanism.

Shamanism is frequently represented in Korean cinema but for the most part it is an element rather than a major theme, aside from Park Chan-wook and Park Chan-ok’s incendiary Night Fishing (2011).  Generally speaking it features prominently in K-horrors, like Possessed (2009) and Ghastly (2011) and is almost always presented in a negative light.  Im, as he moved towards a more reflective style of filmmaking in the mid-70s, became interested in Korean culture and history and particularly in shamanism, which, unlike other religions of the peninsula, has much older roots in the country.

Im’s exploration of the rituals and traditions of the belief structure is almost reverential.  Rather than make a positive or negative commentary on it, he opts to explore it and leave us to draw our own conclusions.  The best scenes of the film, led and brought to life by the great Yun Jeong-hee (Poetry, 2010), are the hypnotic ritualistic dances.  The film is also impressive in its mise-en-scene, especially with its resplendent location shooting.  All told The Divine Bow is a great early Im feature which hints at some of his greatness of later years.

(South Korea, 1975)

Flame, from Yu Hyun-mok, is one of the more well-known films in the ‘Darkest Decade’ retrospective and I’ve had it on the long finger for some time.  Just like Rainy Days (1979), screened earlier this week, the film is set in a village in the past and appears to be an anti-communist film.  However one doesn’t have to search too far for Yu’s real intention, which has more to do with intolerance and hypocrisy in his own country rather than the one North of the border.

The film begins with an unknown and injured man with a rifle, running away from something.  The sequence is edited in slow motion and complemented with an effective score.  It is also quite disorienting and this is exacerbated when the narrative begins to unfold in flashback, via a number of unidentified snippets which we are left to decipher.  This does pose a practical problem as it is a little difficult to piece together the plot and to recognize the characters within it but it is also deliberate and serves its purpose.

Yu employs this experimental structure to highlight the confusion of the period.  Koreans underwent constant change during the colonial period and this only got worse during the Korean war.  Following that, the country, though recently autonomous, became authoritarian under its new military rulers and then switched in the 60s to an even worse dictator.  The period that the film chronicles goes no further than the Korean war but Yu seems to be commenting on a broader historiographical context which also includes recent and present times.

Questions of family, loyalty and duty are explored, just as they were in Rainy Days, and make this another fascinating work.  When I get to Korea I will be trying very hard to get my hands on the out-of-print Korean Film Archive’s Yu Hyun-mok’s DVD boxset to further my discovery of this great filmmaker.  Another wonderful retrospective film, I’m just sad that it was the last one...

Romancing in Thin Air
(Hong Kong, 2011)

There have been a lot of films about filmmaking on the festival circuit this year and the format has yielded many great works.  Sadly, Johnny To’s latest does not sit well alongside this crowd.  Romancing in Thin Air is a romance, which is nothing new for the prolific director, but for his occidental fans who are primarily know him through his action and gangster films like The Mission (1999), Election (2005), and Exiled (2006), this will not be required viewing. 

It isn’t a bad film and just like the rest of To’s oeuvre, it features strong mise-en-scene.  It even throws in some clever postmodern elements, like the film within a film, which enhance the romantic aspect and raises a few interesting questions regarding our relationship with the medium.  With all of its intertextual elements, I’m not sure that it’s really trying to say anything but the joy is the hint of something grander.  It doesn’t make grandiloquent statements like Amir Naderi’s grandiose Cut (2011), which I had the chance to see at last month’s Fribourg International Film Festival, nor does it mine the catharsis of creativity like The Woodsman and the Rain (2011), but it does titillate nonetheless.  I guess I’m just a sucker for movies that shine a light on their construction.

The film follows a Hong Kong actor who exiles himself to an out of the way resort in the Yunnan province where he meets a no-nonsense woman who seems indifferent to his status and charm, though is secretly one of his biggest fans.

Romancing in Thin Air is certainly not the greatest in To’s body of work but a charming and thoughtful effort nonetheless, though I imagine many people will not have time for it.

Dangerously Excited
(South Korea, 2012)

This is the only Korean film playing that has yet to be released in theaters (it opens in July), so it was nice to get the jump for once and not be influenced by any sort of critical consensus.  Dangerously Excited is a charming little film about a civil worker who excels at his job.  Through a series of events he winds up host to a young indie band which he then becomes the bassist for.

Yoon Jae-moon takes the lead in this film and though he is recognizable from a host of major recent Korean films (The Good, the Bad and the Weird, 2008; Mother, 2009), this is the first time I’ve seen him take the lead in a film.  He’s a natural fit as the straightlaced office worker who treasures the order in his life and his performance never veers into caricature.

I will write a full review of Dangerously Excited for MKC soon but it’s safe to say that it is a very enjoyable film if somewhat slight and not altogether memorable.

(South Korea, 2012)

Unbowed, after its release earlier this year during the lunar day holiday, met with much the same reaction as last year’s Silenced.  They were both incendiary courtroom dramas based on real events that became big commercial and critical hits while also serving to open up long overdue national dialogues about Korea’s justice system and its rampant cronyism.  In fact in the space of few months there were three high profile Korean courtroom dramas that connected with audiences, the other being The Client (2011), itself a strong feature which also alluded to problems in the country’s legal system but was mainly a generic (and fictional) piece.

Chung Ji-young hadn’t made a feature film in 14 years and he’s not quite in step with the industry standards of today but it’s just as well as his effective but unobtrusive style leaves the film in the hands of its strongest elements: its excellent cast and brilliant script.

Ahn Sung-ki is perfect for this role, there’s really no other word for it.  He is absolutely convincing as a fiercely intelligent and pragmatic man driven to the edge,  his standoffs with the cold judge (Moon Sung-kun, equally formidable) are intense and cathartic.

I will also be reviewing this film properly in the coming days but if you get a chance to see it, Unbowed is a must and already 2012’s best Korean film (admittedly I’ve only seen two!)

The Woman in the Septic Tank
(Philippines, 2011)

My final film of the festival was a bit of a wild card but I was excited for it as I had been told that it was yet another film about filmmaking.  The Woman in the Septic Tank is an outright comedy that takes aim squarely at that which has been dubbed ‘poverty porn’, a type of film that is typical produced in a developing nation and which appeals to film festival goers by depicting harrowing despair.  The Udine Far East Film Festival does their utmost to steer away from this kind of film and even says so in its trailer, so it’s only fitting that this film, which in a sense reaffirms the festival’s aims was the penultimate film of the week.

A couple of young filmmakers in Manila are looking to make a brilliant art film that will go straight to Cannes and the narrative begins with a few scenes of the film.  They are slow, depressing and boring but also hilarious as they exaggerates all the worst elements of these types of films.  However most people in the audience didn’t seem to understand that it was joke until we cut to the fresh-faced filmmakers in the car heading to a coffeeshop to order soy mocafrappucinos or gold knows what else.

The star of their film is going to be Eugene Domingo and she uproariously sends herself up in a great cameo and also various performances within the film’s film.  During one scene the director and producer argue about who should play the lead, a mother of seven in a Manila slum who sells a child to a Caucasian pedophile.  Aside from Eugene they also consider Cherry Pie, for me this was hilarious and also eye-opening as she was in Fable of the Fish (2011), which I saw last month at the Fribourg International Film Festival, essentially the same role in the exact kind of film that this one seeks to ridicule.  I need to find out which one was made first!

Though not on the level of some other movies about the industry that I’ve seen so far this year, The Woman in the Septic Tank is outrageous and extremely refreshing, especially if you’re familiar with the festival circuit.

Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema.  For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Preview: 14th Udine Far East Film Festival

This Friday, the 14th Udine Far East Film Festival gets underway presenting one of the best lineups of Asian cinema to be found outside of the continent.  MKC will be onsite covering the event though since I only get there on Sunday night I will have missed the first few days, which sadly include some of the films I was most excited about.  Long have I known about the FEFF and wanted to go so I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to attend this year and sample the many films on offer.

Unlike last month's excellent Fribourg International Film Festivsl, which MKC also covered, the FEFF's programme is much more closely aligned to this site's focus, namely Korean cinema.  In the standard section of the festival, which encompasses the majority of the films, there will be ten Korean films presented.  Outside of this there are an additional ten films selected in the 'Darkest Decade: Korean Filmmakers in the 1970s' sidebar, curated by Darcy Paquet.

Among the remaining 40-odd films there is a lot I'm looking forward to.  One film that jumped out to me was Seediq Bale (2011), the Taiwanese epic but unfortunately that will be playing before I arrive.  There are a few Hiroki Ryuichi (The Egoists, 2010; River, 2012) and Pang Ho-cheung (Love In a Puff, 2010; Love in the Buff, 2012; Vulgaria, 2012) films I will checking out as well as offering from all over Asia like Malaysia (Songlap, 2011), Thailand (It Gets Better, 2011), Philippines (6 Degrees of Separation From Lilia Cuntapay, 2011), Hong Kong (The Bounty, 2012; The Viral Factor, 2012) and Japan (Sukiyaki, 2011; The Woodsman and the Rain, 2011).

New Korean Films

Kicking off the festival will be the popular Korean hit Sunny (2011) which has been winning over audiences the world over.  In attendance will be director Kang Hyeong-cheol and producer Lee Anna.  Also playing will be Dangerously Excited (2012), the only Korean film on the program that has yet to be released in theatres.  I was also dangerously excited for this until I realised that I won't be there for it.

Not to worry though as I will get the chance to see Unbowed (2012) and Punch (2011) on the big screen.  I have seen the other new Korean films and it's a strong selection, particularly with the presence of Moby Dick (2011) and Silenced (2011), though I was surprised to see Perfect Partner (2011) included.  Below are MKC's available reviews for the selection:

Darkest Decade: Korean Filmmakers in the 1970s

The most exciting thing about this year's FEFF for me is without a doubt this retrospective of 1970s Korean cinema.  Heavyweights of classic Korean cinema Im Kwon-taek, Kim Ki-young, Kim Soo-yong and Yu Hyun-mok are all featured twice and make this sidebar a must.

I'll be leaving from Switzerland at 7am by train on Sunday and should arrive about 12 hours later in Udine after a stop in Milan.  I'm dying to get there and if you will also be making your way to the festival, please don't hesitate to contact me (pierceconran [at] modernkoreancinema [dot] com).

Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema.  For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Korean Box Office Update (02/24-02/26, 2012)

Nameless Gangster Fights Back During Close Weekend

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Nameless Gangster 2/2/12 22.10% 353,394 3,987,379 495
2 Howling 2/16/12 19.30% 330,321 1,237,340 467
3 Man On a Ledge (us) 2/22/12 15.70% 260,386 334,604 409
4 Dancing Queen 1/18/12 8.90% 152,620 3,820,406 344
5 Underworld 4 (us) 2/22/12 7.60% 101,695 138,798 343
6 Legends of Valhalla (is) 2/9/12 5.40% 96,310 578,744 293
7 The Iron Lady (uk) 2/23/12 2.90% 47,564 56,386 154
8 Tarbosaurus 3D 1/26/12 3.30% 44,462 958,933 161
9 The Grey (us) 2/16/12 2.50% 41,876 279,309 214
10 Legend of a Rabbit (ch) 2/22/12 2.30% 41,448 58,679 224

It was another nail-biter this past weekend as the top two films battled for first place.   Overall business was down somewhat from last weekend and last year but on the plus side the domestic share remained strong as local films sold two out of every three tickets over the frame.

Nameless Gangster came out on top in the end with 353,394, its third chart-topping performance in four weeks.  Even more good news is that the film will cross the four million mark on Monday and stands a a good chance of reaching another benchmark.  It will face some competition in the coming weeks, mostly from more Korean releases, but things will get harder in March as new Hollywood male-skewing blockbusters will enter the marketplace.

Howling was a close number two with 330,321 but this represented an unimpressive 40% drop which, for a second weekend, typically means that the picture hasn't caught on.  The film is well past the one million mark and will likely cross two before too long but is unlikely to go any further.   Given the film's positive notices it's hard to see why the film didn't follow the success of the very recent Korean hits but perhaps that's just it.  Too many local films found a big audience in a short time frame, which no one expected, making it difficult for even a solid release such as this one to squeeze out similar numbers.

Hollywood thriller Man On a Ledge opened with a decent 260,386 but will likely tumble down a few flights come next weekend.

Dancing Queen slipped another spot for 152,620 but was only off 15%.  At this rate it will become the second release of the year to cross the four million mark within a week, after Nameless Gangster beats it to the milestone by a few days.   A great performance though soon it will have to make way for new local products readying for release.

Underworld 4 barely registered with a 101,695 opening weekend but this comes as no surprise given that the franchise has not previously met with much success on the peninsula.

Icelandic animation Legends of Valhalla: Thor continued its unlikely run as it added another 96,310 to its modestly successful total.

Meryl Streep's The Iron Lady opened with 47,564, not too bad considering such a film would have limited appeal in Korea.

Korean animation Tarbosaurus 3D dropped another spot and nearly 40% for 44,462 but it looks set to become only the second Korean animation, after last year's Leafie, A Hen Into the Wild, to cross the one million admissions mark domestically.

Liam Neeson vehicle The Grey crumbled in its sophomore weekend, falling four rungs and losing 70% of its business for a tepid 41,876 take.  The action pic is unlikely to register in the top 10 for a third weekend.

Chinese animation Legend of a Rabbit was a no-go as it debuted in tenth place with 41,448.   Too many animation films lately meant that this one never really stood a chance.

Unbowed just missed the top 10 with 35,842 as it crossed 3.4 million admissions.

Next week's major release is the Ha Jung-woo and Kong Hyo-jin romcom Love Fiction.  Ha is already riding high with Nameless Gangster and will likely end up as the lead of next weekend's top two films.   The question is how well will his latest fare?   I'm betting it will do quite well, perhaps pulling in over 500,000 admissions.


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 evening or Monday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Korean Box Office Update (02/17-02/19, 2012)

Howling Takes a Bite Out of the Box Office

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Howling 2/16/12 26.60% 530,291 637,885 549
2 Nameless Gangster 2/2/12 26.60% 498,920 3,394,229 552
3 Dancing Queen 1/18/12 8.90% 178,364 3,555,301 337
4 Legends of Valhalla: Thor (is) 2/9/12 7.70% 154,176 410,062 333
5 The Grey (us) 2/16/12 7.80% 152,028 184,488 300
6 Unbowed 1/18/12 4.90% 96,598 3,321,467 295
7 Tarbosaurus 3D 1/26/12 4.50% 71,608 892,711 197
8 Woman in Black (us) 2/16/12 3.50% 65,640 78,762 268
9 Ghost Rider 3D (us) 2/16/12 2.70% 53,741 70,433 236
10 Papa 2/1/12 1.10% 24,341 558,246 115

Business stayed very strong this weekend as yet another big Korean release took the top spot though it was a close finish for first place.  Two million tickets were sold over the frame and the overall market share for Korean films hit 70%, preserving a remarkable streak of recent domestic advantage.

Howling won the weekend as many expected it would but by a slimmer margin than expected.  It's 530,291 opening was good but not remarkable.  Though given the recent performances of films like Nameless Gangster and Unbowed, both of which strike similar demographics, perhaps this should come as no surprise.  However, reviews have been strong so word of mouth may see Howling increase in its sophomore frame.

In its third weekend, Nameless Gangster came a close second with 498,920 admissions.  Direct competition from Howling did lead to a 40% drop in business but it is still pulling in big numbers.  Currently it is well over the three million admissions mark and will be knocking on the door of four million soon.  It remains to be seen whether it can vie for five as well.

Dancing Queen also lost some steam in its fifth weekend as it wound up with 178,364.  The Uhm Jeong-hwa and Hwang Jeong-min comedy is now over the 3.5 million mark and will attempt to cross four but this will not be an easy task.  Regardless, the film has already been an enormous hit.

After its surprisingly good opening last weekend, Icelandic animated film Legends of Valhalla: Thor remained almost steady as it collected an additional 154,176 sales.  The picture will easily cross half a million and could go further still.  A good performance in any case but given the glut of children's films lately, it's interesting that this one came seemingly out of nowhere to outperform most of them.

Liam Neeson actioneer The Grey had a midlevel opening with 152,028.  Hollywood is having a tough go as local competition targeting the same audiences have overwhelmed it.

Unbowed slipped three spots to number 6 and shed over 60% of its business in the process for a 96,598 weekend.  The Ahn Sung-ki surprise hit has had a fantastic run and its total will soon cross the 3.5 million mark.  From here on out it will begin to shed theaters quickly as exhibitors look to clear away space for new films.

Tarbosaurus 3D is inching closer to the one million mark (it would only be the second animation to cross it after last year's hit Leafie, A Hen Into the Wild) as it garnered some 71,608 viewers over the frame.  It is still proving to be a very interesting time for Korean animation.

Two new US openers filled out slots 8 and 9, and both wer unable to entice audiences.  Woman in Black started its run with a tepid 65,640 while Nic Cage superhero sequel Ghost Rider 3D was D.O.A. with 53,741.

Rounding out the chart was Papa, which added another 24,341 in its third weekend.  The picture has crossed half a million but is a long way from being considered successful.

The only major release opening next weekend is Hollywood's Underworld 4 but the battle for first place will likely be waged between Howling and Nameless Gangster.


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 evening or Monday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Korean Box Office Update (02/10-02/12, 2012)

Nameless Gangster Takes Another Victory Lap

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Nameless Gangster 2/2/12 40.80% 828,585 2,484,742 712
2 Dancing Queen 1/18/12 13.10% 282,560 3,200,481 426
3 Unbowed 1/18/12 12.00% 256,866 3,096,123 378
4 Legends of Valhalla: Thor 2/9/12 9.50% 198,414 208,842 382
5 Tarbosaurus 3D 1/26/12 6.80% 116,742 803,255 263
6 Papa 2/1/12 4.70% 107,868 478,378 314
7 Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 6/26/99 4.10% 59,278 69,038 200
8 War Horse 2/9/12 2.40% 53,558 64,780 226
9 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 2/9/12 2.10% 44,042 55,784 186
10 Happy Feet 2 2/2/12 1.60% 35,368 159,957 202

This past weekend was another exceptionally strong frame for local films as combined they took nearly 80% of the market share, up from 50% a year ago.  Total admissions came in at just over two million which was a 25% increase on last year's comparable weekend.

Once again leading the charge was Nameless Gangster which barely dropped from its gigantic opening to record a 828,585 weekend which already puts it within inches of the 2.5 million mark.   While it will likely lose a significant amount of business next weekend it's already a big success and will surely cross a few more landmarks during its run.

Dancing Queen moved up to number 2 this weekend with 282,560 which represented a tiny 15% drop.   It is now well over the three million mark and could cross four before finishing its impressive run.  It's going quite steady for the moment and should still remain competitive throughout the rest of the month.

Unbowed dropped to number 3 with a 40% drop that left it with 256,866.  It has now also crossed the three million admissions mark and could vie for the next milestone but this could prove to be a difficult obstacle to overcome.   The film has had an extraordinary run but with so much else crowding the theaters interested does seem to have waned so it will probably begin to wind up its run shortly.

Foreign animation Legends of Valhalla: Thor opened with a decent 198,414 but is unlikely to stay this high on the chart for long.  Considering how many children's films have opened recently this seems like a good start.

Tarbosaurus 3D lost about half its business this weekend as it garnered another 116,742 admissions but it has now crossed the one million mark.  This seems like a decent total for this kind of a film but I have no idea how much it cost or what its break-even point may be.  In any case it has been a difficult period for animation lately with so many crowding the marquee.

Papa dropped a spot to number 6 in its sophomore weekend as it halved its take to 107,868.  Not an impressive run but with so many quality offerings on offer its easy to see why a film with a slight and slightly perplexing premise could get lost in the mix.   One million admissions is probably not on the cards.

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace occupied the number 7 spot as it came out on rerelease with 59,278.  At number 8 was Spielberg's new offering War Horse which sold 53,558 tickets.   Meanwhile, the phenomenal Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy failed to attract many viewers as it attracted 44,042 viewers for number 9.   Last Happy Feet 2 dropped like a stone after an abismal opening as it wound up with a paltry 35,368 admissions.

All eyes will be on the Ha Yu directed and Song Kang-ho starring Howling as it opens wide next weekend.   Reviews have been excellent and anticipation is high but I wonder how the strong performance of the top three local films will affect its opening bow.


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 evening or Monday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Korean Box Office Update (02/03-02/05, 2012)

Nameless Gangster Leads the Charge as Local Films Clean Out the Competition

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Nameless Gangster 2/2/12 38.90% 917,379 1,092,987 701
2 Unbowed 1/18/12 16.40% 406,646 2,642,340 454
3 Dancing Queen 1/18/12 12.80% 322,688 2,734,699 436
4 Tarbosaurus 3D 1/26/12 11.20% 219,930 662,139 320
5 Papa 2/1/12 7.90% 213,946 292,295 414
6 Happy Feet 2 2/2/12 4.40% 99,405 109,141 312
7 Puss in Boots 1/12/12 3.50% 83,013 2,005,691 247
8 Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 1/19/12 1.40% 36,000 1,119,487 174
9 I Don't Know How She Does It 2/2/12 1.30% 30,324 39,845 165
10 Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol 12/15/11 0.70% 17,438 7,538,551 89

Local films dominated the marketplace this weekend as they took the top 5 spots and an 88% market share, effectively wiping out Hollywood's mark on Korean theaters over the time frame.  Total admissions stood at 2.36 million, a very healthy figure for this time of year.  The chief element of success was a strong variety of enticing projects which have mostly benefited from positive reactions.

Leading the charge was the hotly anticipated Nameless Gangster which did not disappoint, both with its positive notices and supercharged 917,379 opening weekend.  It's no small feat coming so close to the million mark at this time of year but even more encouraging in light of the strong competition from Lunar New Year's leading releases.  It will probably remain strong next weekend, likely taking the crown again but will face stiff competition thereafter following the debut of Howling.

Unbowed slowed a little over 40% in its third weekend, winding up with 406,646 which put it past 2.5 millin admissions.  Dancing Queen was next with 322,688, a 45% drop, it also crossed the 2.5 million mark.  Dancing Queen is still in the lead but Unbowed is likely to pull ahead before too long.  3 million is a guarantee for both but it will be interesting to see if they go further, especially Unbowed.

Tarbosaurus 3D dropped about a third and succeeded in lording over the numerous other children's offerings with its 219,930 take. It looks set to cross the one million mark before long, another feather in Korean animation's cap.

Papa also opened this weekend but was overwhelmed by immense local competition, finding itself lost amongst event pictures.  It pulled in 213,946 viewers in its opening bow and is not likely to improve on that in coming weeks.  Seeing how the slate was shaping up at the beginning of the year, the distributors probably should have considered pushing its release back to a less crowded weekend.

The next three entries in the chart were Hollywood kids movies Happy Feet 2 (99,405), Puss in Boots (83,013), and Journey 2: Mysterious Island (36,000).  Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle I Don't Know How She Does It was a non-starter with 30,324 while Mission Impossible 4 is now winding up its extraordinary run, amassing an additional 17,438.  Its 7,538,551 total is enormous but Transformers 3's chart-topping figure is now soundly out of reach.

The local industry is on a bit of a roll and I am now very curious to see how things will shake up over the next few weekends.  Howling pushed its release date back a week, a wise choice given Nameless Gangster's strong performance especially given the film's similar appeal.  So quick on its heels it might also have overloaded the marketplace, it is now being released February 16.  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The War Horse are opening next weekend but neither stands a chance of knocking Nameless Gangster from its perch.  Korean doc Two Lines will also be bowing in limited release.


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 evening or Monday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.