NOTES ON ENTERTAINMENT, CULTURE AND MORE FROM KOREA (OR WHEREVER)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Korea Weekend Box Office - Dec. 1-3

Another quiet weekend this week, with SUNFLOWER (Haebaraji) rising a notch to take the No. 1 spot outright this week (last week it was No. 2 in Seoul, but No. 1 nationwide). I still have not seen it, though, so have nothing to say about the film.

No. 2 goes to Guillermo del Toro's fastasy epic PAN'S LABYRINTH, which makes me quite happy. With 215,700 admissions nationwide, that works out to around $1.45 million in its first three days. Not huge, but not bad for a Spanish-language film. One of the film's biggest problems, imho, is a slightly misplaced marketing campaign, which made the film look more like THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA than the dark, nuanced and fascinating film that it is. (Not that there is anything wrong with Narnia, but we're talking about totally different target audiences... kids versus adults). At the fairly full screening I was at Friday night, judging by the conversations I overheard on the way out, a lot of people were surprised and a little miffed by the movie. I, on the other hand, loved it and recommend it heartily. Gorgeous looking film, intriguing... just first-rate.

And although SUNFLOWER beat out PAN, it is worth noting that SUNFLOWER had around 75 percent more screens.

SAW 3 came in third, coincidentally enough. No comments about the gore-fest, either.

THE DEPARTED fell to No. 4, which does not surprise me. As I said last week, I found the film weak and lacking oomph. Apparently many Koreans agreed with me.

The big surprises to me are the Nos. 5 and 6 films, two new openings featuring actors who were once major players in the Korean entertainment scene. ONCE IN A SUMMER (Yeoreum Iyagi) stars Lee Byung-hun, in a story that seems rather like HARMONIUM IN MY MEMORY. SOLACE (Sarang Halttae Iyagi Haneun Geotdeul) features Han Suk-hyu, who starred in such 1990s hits as SHIRI and THE CONTACT (and a favorite of mine, GREEN FISH). Actually, neither flop was really a "surprise," but it is fascinating to see how tastes change.

About a year ago, I happened to meet Mr. Lee, when he talked about how he was torn about what to do next in his career -- stay in Korea, doing what he knows and does so well, or take a big risk and try to break into Hollywood. I hope this most recent setback encourages him to make the attempt to go abroad. I think it is almost always better to take a chance than to play it safe... but then I am not a big movie star, so what do I know?

To be fair to Mr. Lee, I'm guessing his latest film was made with the Japanese market in mind as much as (or even more than) the Korean market. So I think the poor debut does not reflect on his choice as much as it might otherwise. At any rate, I would like to mention that every time I have met Lee Byung-hun, he has always been very suave, mellow and a gentleman. I cannot claim to be friends with him or know him well, but he strikes me as being one of the good guys.

This WeekTitle........................................Release DateScreens NationwideWeekend Attendance (Seoul only)Total Attendance
1.Sunflower11.2328268,900873,700
2.Pan's Labyrinth11.3016460,900215,700
3.Saw 311.3019457,100230,900
4.The Departed11.2319156,000633,900
5.Once in a Summer11.3033454,800200,100
6.Solace11.3022038,300132,300
7.Step Up11.2314834,700311,900
8.Flushed Away11.2319015,500236,000
9.The Devil Wears Prada10.265211,0001,720,400
10.Rainbow Song11.30418,7008,700

(Source: Film2.0)

1 comment:

Ed said...

Hi, Lee and Han are both entering that awkward phase for leading man VAV their female fanbase: not young enough for romantic fantasy, nor old enough to be accepted as character actor. even the arguably media-spawned "top 3" have never fared too well in melodrama box-office, but at least their gruff or everyman masculinity ensures them male admirers.

RE: Lee in Hollywood
How do you feel his pickings are there, as an Asian man? his people have tried to build buzz among Asian fans, while noting Lee's rejected debuting as villain (even Jet Li had to do it)

Anyway, good blog. hope to see your book in print soon!