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[Movie] Avatar Breaks 10-Million Barrier and Paradigm is Shifted in Film Industry

2010/02/24 Source

Avatar (directed by James Cameron), a 3D SF blockbuster, has become Korea's first foreign film to attract more than ten million viewers. The film has sent the domestic film industry into shock by attracting 10,069,047 viewers (provided by distributor) in just 38 days as of January 23.

Avatar is creating a paradigm shift in the film industry with its commercial success as a 3D film. Some Korean filmmakers are beginning to take an interest in 3D film production, but they have barely caught up with computer graphics in 2D Hollywood films. James Cameron's hit movie Avatar has left Korean filmmakers in a despondent state as they realize that there is still a long way to go.

- 3D is the Key to Box Office Hits!

Before its release, certain commentators predicted that the 3D film Avatar was not likely to become a box office success. This was mainly because there were only 120 3D venues in Korea, according to the industry sources. Korean viewers, who are known for keeping up with technological trends, could flock to 3D theaters while neglecting 2D. The distributor 20th Century Fox Korea expressed concern about this possible imbalance in addition to the film's lengthy 3-hour running time.

Such predictions, however, were somewhat wide of the mark. Like enjoying rides at an amusement park, viewers switched back and forth between 3D and 2D, with an increasing number of viewers watching the film multiple times. Although the admission price for 3D screenings is 16,000 won, twice of that of non-3D movies, Avatar is still enjoying a 90% rate of seat occupancy one month into its release. Tickets are also being sold illegally.

3D is incapacitating illegal downloads, the largest obstacle to a film becoming a box office hit. Illegal videos have lost their allure due to the widespread notion that Avatar can only be truly enjoyed on a large screen. In fact, secretly leaked videos are drawing more viewers to the theaters.

- Avatar Makes Box Office History With Sales Reaching 100 Billion

Avatar's earnings have already made history in Korea. With sales reaching 89.8 billion won on January 24, it broke the record (81 billion won) set by Haeundae.

Despite having fewer screenings due to the long running time, 3D admission prices have contributed to its high sales. Now, industry watchers are wondering whether the film can break the 100-billion-won mark. The distributor expects the film's gross earnings to top 100 billion won if the total number of viewers surpasses 12 million.

To emerge as the highest grossing film in Korea, Avatar will have to keep up with this trend until next month, which coincides with the Korean Lunar New Year holidays, a busy season for the movie theaters.

Some notable upcoming films are "Secret Reunion", starring Song Kang-ho and Gang Dong-won, set for release on February 4, and The Wolfman and Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lighting Thief, scheduled for release on February 11. However, these films will not be enough to slow down Avatar's box office momentum.

Hollywood also expects Avatar to replace Titanic (1.84 billion dollars or 2.1 trillion won) as the highest grossing film of all time. According to Box Office Mojo, a website that tracks box office revenue, Avatar stands at 1.72 billion dollars (2 trillion won) and is close to catching up with Titanic.

- Dealing With Paradigm Shift in the Film Industry

In response to the digital content revolution led by Avatar, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism decided to invest 200 billion won in the computer graphics industry. The Korean Film Council plans to spend 4 billion won in nurturing talents, production and overseas distribution this year.

In spite of governmental support for 3D film production, domestic filmmakers say that it is difficult to catch up with Hollywood in terms of 3D technology.

Director Hah Myung-joong said, "It is a delusion to think that anyone with money can create Avatar". Industry professionals point out that methods of shooting and directing have to change altogether for 3D film production. Hardware and 3D content development are other areas that have to be worked on.

In Korea, directors JK Youn ("Haeundae") and Kwak Gyeong-taek ("Friend") plan to produce the 3D films "Sector 7" and "The Beautiful", respectively. Major Hollywood studios will be releasing twenty new 3D films including Shrek Forever After. Box office hits like Pirates of the Caribbean will also revisit the screens in 3D.

Source: Sports Seoul

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