By Kim Tae-jong
In December, the competition at the local box office seems to be the fiercest ever as a series of local and international blockbuster films are scheduled to open.
"Conventionally, Hollywood blockbusters have dominated the local box office during the winter season in the past few years," said Doh Dong-joon, a researcher at the Policy Research and Development Department in Korean Film Council. "But, this year, things may change as much-anticipated local blockbusters will be also released."
The performance of the upcoming big-budget local films is crucial to make 2005 another very successful year for the local film industry since the domestic film market still relies heavily on one or two movies' success, Doh said.
Opening on Dec. 1, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," has already heated up box office competition for the winter season, occupying some 350 screens out of the 1,500 screens nationwide in the first week of its release.
But the fourth installment of the "Harry Potter" series will be soon challenged by two upcoming blockbusters and have to sharply decrease the number of screens to 200. Its scary challengers are "Typhoon
" and "King Kong," opening on Wednesday.
Made with a production budget of 15 billion won and marketing costs of 5 billion won, "Typhoon
" is the most expensive local film ever and is ready to hit the nation in its fierce pace.
The film, about a North Korean defector who turns into a pirate and prepares for revenge against the South, will be released at 510 screens, the most ever.
At a glance, it seems to have every formula for commercial success. Kwak Kyung-taek, director of Friend
(Chingu), the biggest hit in 2001 that drew more than 8 million people to the theaters, and Jang Dong-gun
, star of "Friend'" as well as "Taegukgi
: The Brotherhood of War," teamed up again for one of the most popular and successful subjects of the division of North and South Korea.
But its rival "King Kong" by Peter Jackson seems to be much bigger in scale and more expensive. The film is being released simultaneously worldwide.
With a production cost of around $207 million, the remake of The Classic
has already reserved some 420 screens without any preview screenings, which are usually used to gauge reactions of audiences and determine the number of screens here for foreign films.
The number of screens for "Typhoon
" and "King Kong," however, is likely to be reduced in two weeks as they will be joined by two other local blockbusters on Dec. 29: "Blue Swallow
" (Chongyon) and "King and the Clown" (Wangui Namja), which have postponed their original release date due to "Typhoon
" and "King Kong."
With a budget of 10 billion won over its two year production period, "Blue Swallow
", the story of the first Korean female pilot during the Japanese colonial rule, has already reserved some 400 screens.
The period piece set in Choson Kingdom, "King and the Clown" (Wangui Namja), made with an 8-billion-won production budget, is also expected to be screened at more than 200 screens.
" and "King and the Clown" are definitely smaller in scale than their rival films, but they are not "cheap" movies given that the average production cost of domestic movies was 4.2 billion won in 2004.
As winter is also a peak season for family moviegoers, another blockbuster "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe" from the Walt Disney, which also opens on Dec. 29, may be a dark horse in the competition for top film this winter.