While Godzilla: King Of The Monsters is expected to dominate the global and international box office this weekend, Bong Joon-ho’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Parasite is coming on strong in its home market. The Thursday Korea opening was a No. 1 $3.93M (including previews), according to local reporting service Kobiz. That topped all comers and holdovers with about 76% of the market on 1,783 screens (more than double those reserved for the likes of Godzilla and Aladdin).
Last Saturday, Bong’s multi-genre comedy-thriller became the first Korean film ever to scoop the top prize in Cannes and has been hailed at home as a triumph by an eager audience. Pre-sales were already at a high throughout this past week and a full weekend take of $15M+ is likely, with some estimates in the $20M range. If that happens, Parasite will enter the Top 20 openings ever in Korea. Warner Bros/Legendary’s monster mash Godzilla bowed on Wednesday and through two days has taken about $752K per Kobiz. To be fair to the latter, and as we noted in our global preview, Korea doesn’t typically rank in the top markets for Hollywood creature features — 2014’s Godzilla did just $6M there — and Parasite has a lot of heat on it.
Korea has sophisticated audiences and a strong 100-year-old homegrown industry which in 2018 accounted for 50% of the $1.6B total box office there. The market’s movies are often remade with Universal’s planned re-do of Extreme Job one of the latest in the offing. Next month, an update of 2014’s Ode To My Father will hit Bollywood screens starring mega icon Salman Khan.
Curiously, however, no Korean film has ever even been nominated for a Foreign Language Film Oscar (a category that is henceforth to be known as International Feature Film). Last year’s Burning from Lee Chang-dong did make the shortlist, though.
Parasite is Bong’s first fully Korean project since 2009’s Mother. In the intervening years, he directed 2013’s Snowpiercer starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Ed Harris and Octavia Spencer. In 2017, his Okja was a Netflix movie also with Swinton that stoked controversy in Cannes for bringing the streaming service to the competition. Bong’s other credits include 2006’s monster movie The Host and 2003’s crime drama Memories Of Murder.
Parasite is striking a chord with local audiences, cheered by the recognition from Cannes and as it deals with a number of themes occurring in our world, from class struggle to global warming. On Monday, Bong and star Song Kang-ho received a heroes’ welcome at Seoul’s Incheon Airport (see video below).
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in also congratulated Bong, saying the win had brought a sense of national pride. Per AFP, his tweet (in Korean) read in part, “I extend my gratitude on behalf of the Korean people. I am very proud of Bong Joon-ho who has risen to the top as one of the world’s best directors.” He also called the film a “meaningful gift.” That’s in contrast to last year’s Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters, which had a great run in its home of Japan, but also bowed amid speculation that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was not a fan.
Bong recently told Deadline the inspiration for Parasite came with the question of, “What would happen if the two families — the rich family and the poor family, who occupy very different spaces in the city — would meet? What would happen if those two worlds were to collide? That was the beginning of the film. And the two families intersect when the son of the poor family becomes the tutor for the rich family.” He also said it’s difficult to define as a genre. “It could be a crime drama. It could be a family drama. It could be a black comedy. It’s a mix of a variety of genres.”
The film has sold worldwide (via CJ which releases in Korea) while Neon boarded domestic rights last year and has dated it for October 11. Parasite goes out on June 5 in France where audiences will be keen to check out the Riviera’s gold medal winner.
Here’s Bong and Song returning home: