By Kim Tae-jong
Local movies are falling behind their Hollywood rivals at the box office this summer with their market share dropping from over 80 percent in February to under 40 percent in June.
The backlash might not be surprising since summer is traditionally the season when Hollywood blockbusters rank high at the local box office as well as in international markets. However, given the number of local movies that have opened this summer, the situation doesn't look good.
According to a report by IM Pictures, a Seoul-based movie investment company, the market share for local movies in June declined to 33.6 percent from 61.1 percent in May, the lowest figures since August 2002 when it stood at 29 percent.
The drop is believed to result from a lack of local hits similar to this year's blockbusters "Silmido
" and "Taegukgi"
, each of which drew more than 10 million moviegoers for the first time in local movie history.
As of July 25, none of the 15 local movies that opened during June and July have yet to reach the 500,000-viewer mark except for the comedy "Hi, Dharma 2: Showdown in Seoul
", which has attracted about 520,000 moviegoers. Meanwhile, Hollywood blockbusters like "The Day After Tomorrow", "Shrek 2" and "Spider-Man 2" have already reached the one-million-viewer mark.
One of the main reasons why moviegoers are choosing Hollywood blockbusters over local films is simple. Audiences may be less enchanted by the lack of variety in the theaters these days, since among 15 recent domestic movies, 11 are either horror films or romantic comedies.
A survey conducted in early July by Film 2.0 magazine (www.film2.co.kr) and the portal site Daum (www.daum.net) shows 47.9 percent of the total 2,735 respondents stated the main reason for local movies' failure to attract many viewers is that they "all look too similar".
The survey also shows that 22.1 percent think recent local movies are "less interesting" than before, and 22.1 percent said that Hollywood films are "better" than local movies.
The preponderance of horror movies at theaters may be a result of their unprecedented success last year combined with the fact that most horror movies tend to open in summer.
Last year, local horror films "A Tale of Two Sisters
", "Wishing Stairs"
, "Into The Mirror"
and "The Uninvited"
were more popular than big-budget Hollywood movies such as "The Matrix Reloaded", "X2: X-Men United", "The Hulk" and "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines".
But what the local industry might have forgotten was that the massive success of local horror flicks also coincided with the commercial failure of Hollywood films, not only in South Korea but in the United States as well. Last year, only "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" attracted large numbers of viewers.
The popularity of Hollywood films this year has meant that low-budget foreign films are having a hard time finding a screen to show at. Many of them have been postponed or will open in only one theater throughout the nation such as the Hong Kong animation "My Life as McDull", "A Time for Drunken Horses" from Iran and the Italian film "But Forever in My Mind".
Although this month brings more local horror movies and romantic comedies, including "Olgulopnun Minyo (Hypnotized)" "R-Point"
and "Love So Divine"
, it seems their success will depend on how well they can stand out from the rest of the crowd.