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[HanCinema's Box Office Review] Marvel's Month of May


Not since the beginning of April has a Korean film managed to claim the top spot at the box office. It was Jo Dong-oh's "Running Man" who last had that honour, but a string of Hollywood hits prevented such local flicks from tasting gold. In April it was Tom Cruise in "Oblivion", followed by Marvel's "Iron Man 3", and this past week saw the "Iron Man" tag Vin Diesel in the sixth instalment of the "Fast and Furious". Although the foreign flicks are still enjoying a long stretch of golden glory, there were a number of Korean films that came close to toppling these outsiders for supremacy.

Amoung the big winners in May were "Iron Man 3", "The Fast and the Furious 6", "Montage" and "Boomerang Family"

The Korean film with the most pull in May was Jeong Geun-seop's "Montage" starring Uhm Jung-hwa and Kim Sang-kyung. Jeong's first feature rocketed to second place in week three, claiming 556,157 admissions and came close to toppling "Iron Man 3" in its fourth week at the top. Similar to Jo's "Running Man" in April, "Montage" once again came short last weekend as "Iron Man" gave way to "The Fast and Furious 6" at the top of the pile. Still, "Montage" has managed to collect a cool 1.3M tickets during its three weeks, making it the most successful Korean film to come out in May.

"Fist of Legend" (1.7M) and "Running Man" (1.4M) ended their runs in May. O Muel's "Jiseul" continued its work behind the scenes, and "Dear Dolphin" just missed out on a top ten finish.

In addition to Jeong's feature, three other Korean films came into the ranks during the month. While "Fist of Legend" (1.7M) and "Running Man" (1.4M) were closing their accounts, Lee Jong-pil's "Born to Sing" stepped into the shadow of "Iron Man 3" while it was at its prime. In the first week of May, "Iron Man 3" claimed almost 2M admissions, which gave Lee's comedy drama a chance to move into second with a modest 306,000 of its own. That is a huge difference of close to 1.7M admissions between one and two, a trend that slowly subsided in the weeks that followed.

The nominated "Rust and Bones", Woody Allen's "To Rome with Love", the Japanese animation "Crayon Shin-chan" and an American romantic drama "Before Midnight" all made cameo appearances.

In addition to "Born to Sing" (which currently has just under 1M admissions), Song Hae-seong's "Boomerang Family" took the honour of being the second highest grossing Korean film this past month. Song's sixth feature, of which he also wrote the script for, crept over the million admissions mark last weekend, but its momentum was serious hampered by a number of popular foreign releases (e.g. "The Fast and Furious 6", "Iron Man 3", "The Great Gatsby", and "The Croods"). Jeong Ik-hwan's "Happiness for Sale" was the only other Korean film to crack the nod for the top ten. Released on the 16th, Jeong's debut film ended the month with a smudge over 300,000 admissions, and is currently eight in the chart.

In addition to the local favourites and Hollywood blockbusters, there were also a number of other foreign flicks that came into the spotlight. Woody Allen's "To Rome with Love" managed to stay in the bottom half of top ten for four weeks, amassing just under 170,000 in the process. Similarly, the Japanese "Crayon Shin-chan: Arashi o Yobu! Ora to Uchu no Princess" also remained in the list for a month, cracking more than 200,000 itself. Japanese animations such as "Crayon Shin-chan" usually sick around for a surprisingly long time, but their influence in the greater flow of ticket stubs is rarely of any huge significance.

"Happiness for Sale" and "Born to Sing" were the two other Korean films that came into the top ten. "The Great Gatsby" graced Korean audiences with its presence, and "The Croods" is still around at number five.

The other animation floating around was DreamWork's "The Croods". "The Croods" has been a little more successful than its Japanese counterpart, collecting just under 600,000 admissions in three weeks. Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone" (a French-Belgian production that has been nominated for a number of international awards) locked down tenth in week three and four, eventually bowing out of the top ten in May's final week with fewer than 30,000 ticket stubs. A quiet notable, and perhaps the film I'm most eager to see, is O Muel's "Jiseul". The film came in and out of the bottom of the top ten in March and April, and over the course of May its total tally has moved onto 140,259 tickets in the bank. Kang Jina's melodrama "Dear Dolphin" (starring Rie Young-zin, Han Ye-ri and Lee Hee-joon) also gets a mention as it came very close in week three to entering the top ten.

Overall, May belonged to Marvel though. The film dominated the top spot for most of the month, and currently stands as the second highest grossing film released in Korea in 2013. The film will be entering its sixth week now, and does so with almost 9M admissions in its pocket. Its grip on ticket sales has weakened now though, allowing for a more even distribution of ticket sales within the top ten. Going into June, it is "The Fast and the Furious 6" that currently holds the crown, with Jeong Geun-seop's "Montage" hot on its heels. Keep an eye on HanCinema's news feed to stay updated on Korea's new releases and to see what films are making waves in Korea!

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