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How to Spot the Real Crowd-Pleaser Movies

2007/02/06 Source

Lee Joon-ik's "Radio Star" has earned average ratings of 9.22 out of 10 in a poll of 7,749 Netizens by the portal site Naver late last month, easily topping the popularity chart among those who watched the film. According to the Korean Film Council, "Radio Star" drew 150,684 viewers on the first weekend of its release on Sept. 28, but that was just around 10 percent of the total number of viewers, which surged exponentially over the weeks: a textbook example of word of mouth making a movie's success.

By contrast, "Bewitching Attraction" released on March 16 last year and starring Ji Jin-hee and Moon So-ri drew a total of 588,467 viewers, but 60 percent or 280,141 of them saw it on the first weekend. Most people who went to see the movie were misled by a provocative poster that has been slammed as close to false advertising. Some 2,438 Netizens gave the movie a dismal average rating of 3.05, placing it 673rd out of 676. Before release, the average rating had been 6.54.

To gauge the true popularity of films released in 2006, the Chosun Ilbo has come up with a "grapevine index" based on the box office performance over time of 110 movies released in 2006. The index divides the total number of viewers by the number on the first weekend of the movies' release.

From left: posters for 'Running Wild', 'I am a Cyborg, but That's Ok', 'Bewitching Attraction' and "Daisy".

Rock bottom is "Running Wild" with kwon Sang-woo and Yoo Ji-tae, scoring an index of 1.7, followed by Park Chan-wook's "I am a Cyborg, But That's Ok'" (1.96), "Bewitching Attraction" (2.1), and "Daisy" (2.14) starring Jeong Woo-sung and Jun Ji-hyun. The common factor among the nine films at the bottom is that their rating by Netizens plunged after they saw them. The higher the expectations, the bigger the disappointment. "Between Love and Hate" ("The Unbearable Lightness of Dating"), which ranked 10th from the bottom, is the only film this low on the index that was rated more positively after people had seen it, improving from 6.96 before to 7.49 after.

From left: posters for 'Radio Star', '200 Pounds Beauty', 'Tazza: The High Rollers' and "The Host".

Topping the chart was "Radio Star" with an index of 10.6, followed by "200 Pounds Beauty" with 8.06, "Tazza: The High Rollers" with 7.28 and "The Host" with 6.42. Most of them became successful through the grapevine, drawing bigger and bigger audiences with the passage of time. The average rating for the top 10 films stood at 8.63, compared to 5.99 for the bottom 10 films.

In the current film market, a movie's box office performance on the first weekend of its release virtually determines its fate. With no fewer than five or six new films released every week, theaters are unwilling to leave unappealing films on show for more than a week. That harsh reality forces distributors to promote and market their films at any cost.

One film marketer admits that when a film is mediocre, the only solution is to advertise it even harder to draw as many viewers as possible in the first week of its release, before the word is out, "because they know that the number of viewers will drop rapidly after that".

The trend is raising a lot of concern since it can seem that more time and money is being put into making films look good than into making good films. According to the KFC, the average production cost of films was W4.02 billion(US$1=W936) in 2006, but the proportion of marketing expenses increased by W180 million while pure production cost dwindled by W150 million. It was the first time pure production costs shrank since 2002, with all that implies for the producers' concern about quality.

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