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Korean films plunge to record low in May

2008/06/10 | 375 views | Permalink | Source

The market share of Korean movies plunged to a single digit for the first time in six and a half years, reflecting the depth of problems facing local filmmakers amid the lack of a much-needed hit.

CJ CGV, the country's biggest multiplex operator, said in a regular monthly report that 12.82 million people watched movies in May, but only 1 million, or 7.8 percent, opted for home-grown films.

The figure, the lowest since January 2002, marked a continued downward trend that started in February this year when it topped 69.1 percent. The figure plunged to 46.3 percent in March, and then went down further to 23.1 percent in April.

The drastic development came after a briefly hopeful moment in January and February when "Forever the Moment" and "The Chaser" sold far more tickets than expected on the strength of their solid storyline and enhanced dramatic effects.

But the buoyant mood quickly gave way to a bleak outlook in the following months as a slew of powerful Hollywood flicks marched into the Korean box office while there was few, if any, real competitors from the Korean camp.

In May, "Iron Man" sold 3.93 million tickets to rank first, followed by "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2.55 million), "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" (1.25 million), "Taken" (930,000) and "Speed Racer" (740,000).

Only two Korean films made it to the top ten last month: "The Moonlight of Seoul" ranked eighth with 630,000 tickets and "A Tale of Legendary Libido" secured the ninth slot with 260,000 tickets.

Even considering the seasonal fluctuation, the ticket sales of May point to a deeper problem. Korean films tend to show a tepid performance in the second quarter, especially near the summer vacation season when Hollywood blockbusters stage concerted attacks. Last July, when the Hollywood onslaught led by "Diehard 4.0" and "Transformers" was enacted, Korean films struggled hard and yet held out to secure a 19.4 percent share. This time, however, the double-digit defense line crumbled so helplessly that domestic media quickly floated the idea of the film industry having hit a rock bottom, preferably a consolidation stage that signals a recovery just around the corner.

The extended three-day weekend from Friday (Memorial Day) to Sunday did not offer any sign of a change in the negative trend. As widely expected, "Kung Fun Panda", a DreamWorks animated feature, topped the box-office chart in its opening week with slightly less than 1 million viewers, followed by "Indiana Jones" (390,000) and "Sex and the City: The Movie" (340,000). Even the fourth place went to a Hollywood romantic comedy, "What Happens in Vegas."..

Trailing behind in the fifth place was "Girl Scout", a Korean comic drama that stars Kim Sun-ah, Na Moon-hee and Lee Kyung-shil as housewives on their hunt for their lost money.

This weekend is no better than last week as there is no major Korean release. Instead, "The Incredible Hulk", another muscular Hollywood film based on the classic Marvel Comics superhero tale, is scheduled to hit theaters on Thursday.

Local critics and moviegoers pin their hope on "Public Enemy Returns", which debuts on June 19. Directed by a leading filmmaker Kang Woo-suk, the third installment of a police action series is regarded as one of a few Korean films that can carve out a bigger share in its battle against Hollywood counterparts.

By Yang Sung-jin

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