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Political drama, pirate film set to compete at holiday box office

This image provided by Megabox Plus M shows a scene from
This image provided by Megabox Plus M shows a scene from "Kingmaker." (Megabox Plus M)
Two homegrown movies will hit local theaters next week to lure film buffs and holiday shoppers ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.

"Kingmaker" and "The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure" will open Wednesday, three days before the five-day Lunar New Year holiday begins. The first day of the new year based on the lunar calendar falls on Feb. 1 this year.

The political film "Kingmaker" depicts the subtle relationship between Kim Woon-beom (Seol Kyung-gu), an opposition party candidate who dreams of becoming the president, and Seo Chang-dae (Lee Sun-kyun), a capable election strategist who leads behind-the-scenes election campaigns for Kim, in the 1960s.

It is motivated by a famous but mysterious election tactician in the 1960-70s, Eom Chang-rok, who worked for Kim Dae-jung, who became the country's president in 1998 after a decadeslong political career.

Director Byun Sung-hyun's latest work has been attracting wide public attention as the fact-based, straight-ahead political film will be released about a month before the presidential election slated for March 9.

The upcoming Korean fantasy adventure "The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure" is a typical fun and exciting pirate film targeting families and casual filmgoers for the family-gathering holiday season.

The film depicts the adventures of Muchi (Kang Ha-neul) and Haerang (Han Hyo-joo), who look for tons of royal treasure from the collapsed Goryeo Dynasty. It boasts amazing ship battles, sword fights, and bloody struggles against massive sea creatures and hidden monsters, coupled with quality visual effects.

It is eying the revival of the success of its 2014 predecessor, "The Pirates," which attracted 8.6 million moviegoers with a star-studded cast and humor.

It is the first time in two years that Korean flicks will go head-to-head ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, one of the two most important traditional holidays in the country, regarded as a high season for the local cinema scene as blockbuster movies compete before the spring season.

"The atmosphere seems to be good with two big blockbusters to be running and eased distancing rules," said an official from CJ CGV, a leading multiplex chain. "But I'm concerned that the rapid spread of the omicron variant might hurt the holiday vibes."

Last year when the Lunar New Year fell in mid-February, most big-name films postponed theatrical releases due to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in the winter and tightened social distancing in theaters.

A total of 707,000 people went to the movies during the four-day Lunar New Year holiday weekend in February 2021, just one-seventh of the more than 4.9 million attendees tallied over the previous year's holiday. (Yonhap)