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Box Office: April 4-17, 2013

Apr 18, 2013
  • Writer by Darcy Paquet
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Running Man, the first Korean film to be majority financed by Fox International Productions, got off to a decent start at the Korean box office with 1.1 million admissions in its first two weeks on release. Directed by CHO Dong-oh (The Restless), and starring the popular SHIN Ha-kyun (The Front Line), the film tells the story of a struggling single father named Jong-woo who gets accidentally caught up in a high-stakes transaction involving espionage and state secrets. Finding himself up against ruthless forces much stronger than himself, Jong-woo can only run. Although Running Man opened well, taking the top spot at the box office in its first weekend, a significant drop in its second week bodes ill for its long-term prospects.
Faring somewhat better was the movie at #2, Fists of Legend. In a single week the film, directed by well-known producer-director KANG Woo-suk (Moss), took a total of 840,000 admissions. Fist of Legend stars HWANG Jung-min (fresh off the success of the February release New World) as a single father who is persuaded to take part in a popular reality TV show in which ordinary middle-aged men fight in a boxing ring. The film also stars YU Jun-sang (In Another Country), LEE Yo-won (Perfect Number), and YOON Je-moon (Dangerously Excited).
Expectations were quite high for Fists of Legend, but it has a strong competitor in the Hollywood film Oblivion starring Tom Cruise. The effects-heavy science-fiction feature opened on April 11th, one day after Fists of Legend, and amassed a total of 790,000 admissions in one week.

Most of the other films in the chart are holdovers from previous weeks. Hollywood film G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation, which features local star LEE Byung-hun in an important role, sold another 760,000 tickets to bring its three-week total to 1.8 million admissions. Relationship drama Very Ordinary Couple from debut director ROH Deok added 400,000 tickets in its third and fourth week to also reach 1.8 million admissions. The film stars KIM Min-hee and LEE Min-ki as a recently separated couple who, being employees at the same bank, must deal with the prospect of continually seeing each other on a daily basis. Human drama My Paparotti sold 260,000 tickets in its fourth and fifth week to top out at 1.7 million admissions. And the massive hits New World (released on February 21st) and Miracle in Cell No. 7 (released on January 23rd) continue to attract viewers, having now amassed 4.7 million and  12.8 million admissions respectively.
Incidentally, the independent local distributor N.E.W., which released both New World and Miracle in Cell No. 7, successfully captured a #1 distributor market share for the first quarter of 2013. With its strong lineup of local and international films, CJ E&M almost always places first in distributor rankings, but the runaway success of these two films allowed N.E.W. to claim the top spot for the first time.
Meanwhile, low-budget independent film Jiseul continues its amazing box office run. Directed by Jeju native O Muel, the film is based on an incident in 1948 in which civilians on Jeju Island were massacred by government soldiers. After winning a major award at Sundance, the film has rode enthusiastic word-of-mouth to rack up a box office score almost unheard of for independent films. With 115,000 admissions to date, it is quickly closing in on the final box office tally of YANG Ik-june’s Breathless, which sold 123,000+ tickets in 2009. The only other independent feature of this type to break out so dramatically was the documentary Old Partner, which amassed close to 3 million admissions during its 2009 release.

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