The Korea Herald


Korean blockbusters offer immersive cinematic experience this summer

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : July 12, 2022 - 17:55

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A compilation of poster images shows, from left, “Alienoid,” “Hansan” and “Emergency Declaration” (CJ ENM, Lotte Entertainment, Showbox) A compilation of poster images shows, from left, “Alienoid,” “Hansan” and “Emergency Declaration” (CJ ENM, Lotte Entertainment, Showbox)
Korean blockbusters will hit local theaters this summer in diverse “immersive cinema” formats to attract more moviegoers, as COVID-19 restrictions for theaters have been lifted.

Previously, special-format Imax theaters were considered the near-exclusive domain of Hollywood blockbusters such as Marvel Studios’ superhero movies. The Korean movie industry had practically shunned the format.

Until recently, only six Korean commercial films had been released in the Imax format. “Sector 7” (2011) was the first Korean movie to be screened in Imax, followed by “Along With the Gods: The Last 49 Days” (2018), “Exit” (2019), the Oscar-winning “Parasite” (2019), “Peninsula” (2020) and last year’s hit “Escape From Mogadishu.”

By contrast, this year has seen “The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure” and “The Roundup” released in the Imax format, to be followed by two more -- “Alienoid” and “Emergency Declaration” -- in the coming weeks.

“After the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend has somewhat shifted. The audience seems to prefer an experience that can only be gained in movie theaters that are different from watching movies at home or online,” an official from CJ CGV, the country’s largest cinema chain, told The Korea Herald on Monday.

“Immersive cinema screenings like Imax and 4DX offer an expanded sense of space which allows the audience to be ‘immersed’ -- visually, audibly and even physically -- in the scene,” the official added.

According to data from the Korean Film Council, the percentage of Imax viewers in Korea increased to 1.7 percent of all theatergoers last month,from 1 percent in June 2019, before the pandemic.

Imax tickets typically cost 22,000 won ($16) per person on weekends in Seoul-area theaters, compared to 15,000 won for regular screenings.

One of the most highly anticipated movies this season is sci-fi action film “Alienoid,” directed by Choi Dong-hoon, whose recent hits include “The Thieves” (2012) and “Assassination” (2015). Set to be released July 20 in Imax and 4DX, the film’s star-studded cast includes Kim Tae-ri, Kim Woo-bin, Ryu Jun-yeol and So Ji-sub.

“The movie depicts two parallel worlds, going back and forth between the past and the present. We hope the audience can fully experience the dynamic action and sound, as if you were in the actual movie, through Imax and 4DX screenings,” said an official at CJ ENM, the film’s distributor.

Another historical war blockbuster,“Hansan,” which will be released July 27, is to be available in 4DX. Directed by Kim Han-min, the movie revolves around Adm. Yi Sun-sin and his historic Battle of Hansan Island in 1592 against Japan during the Joseon era. Kim’s previous “Roaring Currents” (2014) remains the reigning champion of Korea’s box office history, selling 17.6 million tickets in a nation of some 51 million.

“Emergency Declaration,” scheduled for an August release, will also be screened in Imax, 4DX, Screen X and 4DX Screen, a format that combines 4DX and Screen X. Starring Song Kang-ho from “Parasite,” Lee Byung-hun and Jeon Do-yeon, the movie depicts a deadly virus spreading inside a plane in flight.

The audience can experience the film’s action through moving seats along with environmental effects such as water, wind and scent in 4DX. Screen X shows the movie in three facades, using the left and right walls of the theater as additional screens. CJ CGV developed the two technologies.

The Imax technology was developed by Imax Corp., which also controls distribution at Imax-affiliated theaters.

“The pandemic has changed the demands from our audience, and we think that ‘Emergency Declaration’ is the perfect film to show the range of special screenings on offer,” said an official from Showbox, the film’s distributor.