Korean theaters welcome 200m viewers this year

By Claire Lee

Popular local films draw more people to the movies

  • Published : Dec 18, 2013 - 19:20
  • Updated : Dec 19, 2013 - 09:18
Moviegoers wait in the lobby of a multiplex in downtown Seoul on Dec. 1. People went to theaters in Korea more than 200 million times this year, breaking the record for ticket sales. (Yonhap News)

More than 200 million tickets have been sold in movie theaters this year as of Wednesday, according to the state-run Korean Film Council. It is the first time that Korean theaters welcomed such a high number of local viewers.

Last year, a total of 194,890,587 people hit theaters to watch films in Korea. Korean films alone attracted 118,160,000 viewers this year, exceeding last year’s record of 114,613,190. The market share of Korean movies also reached 59.1 percent in 2013, surpassing that of foreign films, which stood at 40.9 percent.

This year saw releases of English-language films by famed Korean filmmakers, including Park Chan-wook’s “Stoker” and Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer.” Bong’s dystopian sci-fi thriller “Snowpiercer,” starring an international cast including Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris, drew around 9,340,000 viewers.

A total of eight Korean films released this year drew more than 5 million viewers, including “Miracle in Cell No. 7,” “Snowpiercer,” “The Face Reader,” “The Berlin File,” “Secretly Greatly,” “Hide and Seek,” “The Terror Live” and “Cold Eyes.”

Among these, “Hide and Seek” and “The Terror Live” were unexpected hits by rookie directors Huh Jung and Kim Byeong-woo, respectively. The films are the directors’ feature debuts.

By comparison, only three Korean films ― “The Thieves,” “A Werewolf Boy” and “Masquerade”― surpassed 5 million audience members last year.

Korean films, both commercial and independent, were more diverse in genre and style this year, appealing to a wide spectrum of viewers. Jang Cheol-soo’s North Korean spy drama “Secretly Greatly,” for example, was based on the popular 2010 webtoon series “Convertness” by the artist HUN. “The Face Reader” was a period drama featuring a man who studied physiognomy, while “The Terror Live” told the story of a news anchor who receives a terrorist threat during his live radio show.

Celebrated art house filmmaker Hong Sang-soo also released two films this year, “Our Sunhi” and “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon.” While “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon” competed in this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, “Our Sunhi” won Hong the Best Director award at the Locarno International Film Festival. “Pieta” director Kim Ki-duk also showcased the controversial “Moebius” this year, featuring the themes of castration, rape and incest.

Lee Hwan-kyung’s tearjerker drama “Miracle in Cell No. 7” sits at the top of this year’s box office standings so far, with 12,810,776 tickets sold for the film. “Snowpiercer” ranked second, while “The Face Reader” came in at third place.

Only two foreign films ― “Iron Man 3” and “World War Z” ― made it into the top 10 list. “Iron Man 3” ranked fourth, attracting 9,001,309 viewers, while “World War Z,” a zombie movie starring Brad Pitt, ranked 10th with 5,237,519 audience members.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)