By Chung Ah-young
The economic recession that has affected almost every part of the world hasn't touched the local theater industry.
This year, musicals and plays have stayed afloat through their distinctive strategies.
The musical industry highly relied on producing movie-based musicals, called "movical" while the plays gained bigger popularity than ever through the success of "Yeongeuk Yeoljeon 2" (A Series of the Best Plays). The two genres also used a star-studded marketing strategy.
The buzzword in this year's musical trend was "movical", referring to the combination of movies and musicals.
The boom in re-creating the cinematic arts on the musical stage draws from the success of hit films such as "Radio Star'", "The Harmonium in My Memory
" and "200 Pounds Beauty
It marks a big contrast from last year when homegrown blockbuster musicals such as "Dancing Shadows" and "Dae Jang Geum
", were produced prolifically but without commercial success.
As the home-grown creative musicals failed to win the hearts of the public, the major production companies turned their eyes to proven and reputed works such as the film-based musicals and the foreign licensed musicals.
However, not all were successful. While "Radio Star"
, "The Harmonium in My Memory
" and "200 Pounds Beauty
" received good reviews for their fresh twists, "Failan
" and "Xenadu" flopped as they brought the same storyline to the musical stage.
Star power lent to the success of movicals. Stars such as Choi Sung-hee better known as Bada
, Ock Joo-hyun
, Park Ji-yoon
from boy band Big Bang and Kangin
and Kim Heechul
of Super Junior starred in them, contributing to high ticket sales.
According to Interpark, this year's ticket sales of the musical as of the end of November have risen by about 20 percent over the previous year.
"The strong ticket power of the proven and reputed licensed Broadway musicals such as `Mamma Mia!' and `Chicago', and `Cats" is continuing. People prefer such familiar musicals rather than new musicals", Kim Seon-gyeong, manager of the Interpark promotional team, said.
"Also, there has been no sign of a decrease in the ticket sales despite the economic slump in the second half of the year", she said.
Kim said that the corporations are reducing their support and sponsors for major musical productions as part of their belt-tightening measures. But, individual consumers are filling up the void left by the reduction of corporations' support.
"The production environment is deteriorating for musical companies due to the declining sponsors of the corporations, but people continue to buy tickets for musicals", she said.
The "Yeongeuk Yeoljeon 2", which began on Dec. 7 last year and will go on through Jan. 4, has raised the popularity of plays. The best-series project was the result of veteran actor and programmer Cho Jae-hyun
's efforts to save the sagging theater industry with the star-studded casting.
Ticket sales soared by about 50 percent over the same period of the previous year, according to Interpark.
Particularly, the second half of the year was a hot season as various big-name plays were staged with celebrated movie stars such as Go Soo
and Hwang Jung-min
A total of 11 plays have been staged in the past year. Among others, "A Story of Old Thieves" is one of the hottest plays this year, which is now touring around the nation as an encore performance.
"Many plays of the Yeongeuk Yeoljeon 2 are giving encore performances and extending their run because of the soaring demand. And casting celebrities has become a key element to attract young audience members", Kim said.
According to the Yeongeuk Yeoljeon production company, as of November, ticket sales amounted to 4 billion won, drawing about 200,000 viewers.
Although the project was successful in garnering popularity, critics have pointed out there have been fewer creative and new works with highly theatrical artistry.
Meanwhile, "Lady Macbeth" directed by Han Tae-sook, "Yakiniku Dragon", a Korean-Japanese joint production, and "A Ballad of Once Upon" directed by Lee Yun-taek received acclaims as the best plays of the year.