Despite an overall drop in local market share to 43% over the first six months of the year, Korean screens are on fire right now with homegrown movies. So much so that they’re edging out Hollywood titles. This past weekend, new blockbuster Roaring Currents and last week’s release Kundo: Age Of The Rampant (see trailers below) pushed How To Train Your Dragon 2 down to 3rd position in its 2nd frame and put the bow of Guardians Of The Galaxy in 4th position, making Korea the only market where GOTG didn’t start at No. 1.
One U.S. studio exec recently called Korea a “brutal market” — especially since there is crossover between distributors and exhibitors, as is the case with giant CJ, which released Roaring Currents on Wednesday and owns its own multiplexes. Still, although GOTG didn’t score the top berth in its debut, it was 25% above Thor 2 and I understand Disney is feeling good with the start and expected word of mouth. The next studio movie to travel to Korea is Hercules next week. When I wrote my international box office report yesterday, Roaring Currents was estimated to have finished the weekend at $35M. Today, CJ confirms that the film set a new opening weekend record with 5M admissions (about $39M) as of early this morning. It also beat Kundo: Age Of The Rampant‘s July 23 opening day record of just under $4M when it hit $4.57M on Wednesday, according to the Korean Film Council. Currents went on to set new daily records on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Notably, on Saturday it became the first film ever to attract over 1M viewers in a day and to the tune of $9.5M. The next day, it beat that record with $9.71M. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon previously held the single-day admissions mantle with 956K in 2011, FilmBizAsia notes.
CJ will release Roaring Currents in Los Angeles on August 8 and then expand on August 15 under the title The Admiral: Roaring Currents. Kundo, which WellGo USA acquired in Cannes, is eyeing a North American release later this year. It now has a 12-day total of $33.6M in Korea.
Both Roaring Currents and Kundo are period actioners. Set in the 19th century and directed by Yoon Jong-bin, Kundo centers on a group of outlaws who act as a sort of Robin Hood-style band of Merry Men. Currents, from Han-min Kim, portrays the historic Battle of Myeongnyang on the southwestern coast of the Korean peninsula. Oldboy and Lucy’s Choi Min-sik stars. Other movies to have performed well this year include Miss Granny, The Attorney, A Hard Day and The Target, although they’ve not been as large scale as the actual top two.
Whether Korea can keep up the momentum remains to be seen, but it’s got two big local movies on deck. On August 6, sea-faring period adventure Pirates will tell the tale of the hunt for a gray whale who swallowed something precious during the Joseon Dynasty (Currents is also based during this period, a popular setting for local movies). After that, drama Sea Fog goes out on August 13. Also known as Haemoo, it’s directed by Sim Seong-bo, who co-wrote the script with Bong Joon-ho based on the 2007 stage play which itself is based on the true story of an October 7, 2001 incident in which 25 Korean-Chinese stowaways on the Korean fishing vessel Taechangho suffocated to death and were then dumped into the sea. Bong is also producer. Below are subtitled trailers for Roaring Currents, Kundo: Age Of The Rampant and The Pirates.
Kundo: Age Of The Rampant: