Can ‘Pieta’ enjoy success at home?

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Sept 10, 2012 - 20:19
  • Updated : Sept 10, 2012 - 20:19

Film critics, distributor say the Venice fest winner is likely to earn Kim Ki-duk his biggest commercial success yet in Korea

Award-winning director Kim Ki-duk and his works may have succeeded in overseas markets, but he never enjoyed such triumph in his homeland. Nicknamed an outsider, the eccentric director has seen local audiences turning their backs on his films, even those that won prizes at prestigious international film festivals. “Bad Guy” (2001) which drew about 700,000 viewers was his biggest hit-film so far. Other films never had more than 100,000 viewers, which deeply frustrated the director.

His latest film “Pieta” explores the extreme of the human experience and contains disturbing scenes ― much like his previous works. However, the director is likely to enjoy commercial success in Korea this time, according to film critics and the film’s distributor. 
People pass by a poster of Kim Ki-duk’s film “Pieta” displayed at Cinecube in Gwanghwamun on Monday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

“We think Kim will enjoy his biggest commercial success with ‘Pieta.’ The number of screens is on the rise from 150 last week to nearly 200 today,” said Lee In-sung, publicist for the film distributor NEW. The company should be able to sell more than 250,000 tickets to reach the break-even point of the low budget-film, Lee added. The production of “Pieta” cost 150 million won, only one-thirtieth of the average production cost of other Korean films.

A day after the news of his winning the top prize at the Venice film festival surprised the country, his film quickly drew interest from movie watchers.

As of 3:00 p.m. on Monday, the film took second place in an official advance ticket sales ranking, with 12.3 percent of the market share, according to the Korea Film Council. The first print of the novel adapted from Kim’s screenplay was sold out on the same day the book hit bookstores on Sunday. The distributor NEW is already working on the second print of the book, Lee added.

Film critics say they are positive about Kim’s success in the domestic market thanks to the skyrocketing media coverage and changes in the audience attitude.

Film critic Kwak Young-jin said he expects Kim’s “Pieta” to surpass the 1 million-audience-mark, judging from the high advance sales rate.

“Even before Kim left for Venice, he appeared on TV shows in an apparent attempt to draw more audiences than before. The explosion of news coverage of Kim and his contribution to Korean film history should have increased public interests in his film,” Kwak said.

Kwak added that a growing number of Korean audience, particularly women in their 30s and 40s, have started to enjoy watching films that contain disturbing scenes. “Women, in particular, were often hostile to highly provocative movies or films about violence. But recent data show they have become more open to movies with disturbing scenes. These changes in the audience will help ‘Pieta’ succeed commercially this time,” he said.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)