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Korean thriller takes No. 1 spot in Chinese box office: distributor

2007/03/14 Source

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Korea's record-breaking horror flick, "The Host", topped the Chinese box office last week, reeling in 5.2 million yuan ($670,000), the movie's producer said Tuesday (March 13).

Chungeorahm Film said the movie has become the first Korean film ever to take the No. 1 spot in China's box office for an entire week.

The movie tells the story of an ordinary five-member family running a kiosk along Seoul's Han River, whose lives suddenly change when they lose their only daughter to a monstrous creature that has been mutated by toxic wastes from a U.S. military base.

The film was screened in about a quarter of Chinese theaters, Chungeorahm officials quoted local distributors as saying, despite a surge in pirated copies after its DVD release last November.

The movie, which cost 15 billion won ($15.8 million) in production and marketing, brought in more than 12 million viewers in Korea and generated over 80 billion won in sales.

After decades of struggling for scarce funds and an audience, South Korea's film industry has grown into a powerhouse, driven by a mix of star power and unique plots. Its filmmakers are now looking abroad for revenue.

Dubbed Korea's answer to Steven Spielberg's "Jaws", "The Host" also opened last week in the United States and Australia. It was opened in Japan last year, but didn't fare well.

"The Host" is also set to be shown in India, Germany and Argentina this year, according to Cheongeorahm.

The film's plot was first conceived by Bong Joon-ho, the director, who said he began to write the story after he heard about the criminal case of Albert McFarland, a civilian employee of the U.S. military in Korea, who ordered the dumping of toxic formaldehyde into the Han River in 2000. He received a suspended prison term and then left for the United States.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the New York Times' critic Manohla Dargis praised the film's good mix of laughter and fright.

"That's especially true during the monster's first attack, when Mr. Bong instills an initial sense of calm and then of rapidly escalating panic through his masterful orchestration of the various tempos created by the actors (walking, then running), the monster (swimming, then galloping), the camera (tracking, then racing) and the edits (slow, slow, fast!)" Dargis writes.

Another influential daily, The Washington Post has also given a favorable review to the movie: "The Korean film "The Host" has such a wide range of attributes -- it's a comedy, it's a vivid evocation of a dysfunctional family that comes together in crisis, it's a wondrous homage to the courage of children, it's a biting critique of the government -- that it's hard to recall that it's first and foremost a monster movie".

The U.S.A Today even compared the movie to the Hollywood Blockbuster "300" that opened on the same weekend.

In a review, it said "Though the masses will undoubtedly line up to see the predictable action epic "300", those who want something inventive and much more entertaining should check in with "The Host".

In addition, The Los Angeles Times and the Philadelphia Daily have both touted the flick's potential to become one of the few Asian films released in the U.S. to register with American audiences.

The Philadelphia Daily said the movie took the Japanese film 'Godzilla' to the next level while The Los Angeles Times said, "It is a film that will catch you leaning in one direction and abruptly pull you in another, all the while building to a surprisingly emotional climax".

According to the movie's U.S. distributor, Magnolia Pictures, 68 theaters across the nation will feature "The Host", starting on March 9. By May 4, 122 theaters in the U.S. will show the feature.

Among all the Korean films released in the U.S., "The Host" will have the most number of theaters playing the movie. The film also opens in Spain, Germany, China, and Australia in March.


Korean Movie director, Bong Joon-ho's critically acclaimed blockbuster "The Host", which attracted a record-breaking 13 million moviegoers in Korea last year, got off to a good start when it officially opened at 68 theaters across the U.S. on March 9.

It raked in 320,000 dollars over the weekend, coming in 23rd in box office tallies --the best performance by a Korean movie in the U.S.

The part comedy, part drama, part monster movie is heavy on satire and centers around a monster that emerges from Seoul's Han River, killing picnickers and snatching a school girl prompting her family to launch a rescue. It is expected to do well in the coming weeks as it has already won many accolades from major U.S. dailies.

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