Korean Box Office: SNOWPIERCER Leads Biggest Weekend In Korea's History

This first weekend in August is always a busy time in Korea and though this one was poised to post massive figures, few could have foreseen just how big it would be. Roughly 4.5 million tickets were sold this weekend, the first time the Fri-Sun frame has ever crossed the 4 million mark in Korea. By comparison, last year's powerful The Thieves-led frame brought in 3.69 million viewers. Even better news was a strong 80% (versus 58% in 2012) local market share, driven by a pair of huge new domestic hits.

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Snowpiercer 13/07/31 50.50% 2,260,191 3,297,568 1127
2 The Terror Live 13/07/31 26.60% 1,195,345 1,836,450 742
3 Turbo (us) 13/07/25 7.60% 355,861 1,382,961 515
4 The Smurfs 2 (us) 13/08/01 6.00% 293,892 437,937 478
5 Red 2 (us) 13/07/18 4.30% 194,454 2,756,415 381
6 Cold Eyes 13/07/03 1.20% 54,784 5,458,567 214
7 The Wolverine (us) 13/07/25 1.20% 54,540 1,032,178 259
8 Mister Go 13/07/17 0.80% 40,679 1,301,276 145
9 Doraemon: The Movie (jp) 13/07/25 0.30% 15,366 110,780 80
10 Pacific Rim (us) 13/07/11 0.50% 15,119 2,531,742 44

2013 - Snowpiercer (Song Kang-ho 2).jpg
Leading the frame with a 50.5% market share and the biggest weekend performance for a Korean film of all time was the hotly anticipated Snowpiercer, the new sci-fi epic by Bong Joon-ho. The film scored 2,260,191 admissions over the three days, behind only Transformers 3's 2.36 million start in 2011. What's more, the film opened on Wednesday and has already accrued 3.3 million admissions. This is only behind Secretly Greatly's 3.49m start earlier this summer, though that had a national holiday to rely on and a more frontloaded run (its first five days accounted for half of its entire haul). 

Early reservations are down from 70% on Wednesday to 50% today, so Snowpiercer won't stay flat this coming weekend, like previous Korean blockbusters have been known to do, but it seems in good shape for another massive haul. With $21 million banked already (mostly in distributor CJ's own theater chain CGV) and another $20 million in presales to foreign territories, Snowpiercer has almost recouped its $39.6 million budget, the highest in Korean film history. Looking ahead, a 7-8 million admission total seems assured while 10 million is very much a possibility. However, while a lot of the word of mouth has been strong, there are many people who were not keen on Bong's latest opus, which will likely prevent this from topping his own The Host, which scored 13 million admissions in 2006.

2013 - The Terror Live.jpg
As if Snowpiercer's success wasn't enough, another new local thriller was a big presence on the chart. The Terror Live, starring Ha Jung-woo, managed 1,195,354 admissions against the sci-fi behemoth and has already amassed 1.84 million sales in five days. Word of mouth is solid on the film and it is likely to remain strong on the chart. A 5 million finish is within reach.

US animation Turbo had a stellar second weekend, benefitting from choice counter-programming, as it dipped only 10% and added 355,861 admissions to its haul, which is now almost over 1.4 million. At this point in its run, 2 million looks likely. At number four, The Smurfs 2 also got off to a decent start with 293,892 admissions over the frame.

After two big number one finishes, Red 2 suffered a big 70% drop against the incoming thrillers for only 194,454. However, with 2.76 million tickets banked, the Hollywood sequel has already far outstripped its predecessor. It was a similar story in the rest of the top 10 as the bottom 5 all experienced heavy drops as they were forced to cede their theaters to new blockbusters.

Snowpiercer and The Terror Live will have no trouble repeating at number one and two as the only major release next weekend is the animation Epic.
Around the Internet:
  • CHUD

    Any word yet on a release date in the US?

  • Joey Baloni

    One could argue about this movie (which I'm diying too see) being a local korean movie. By what definition? Shot entirely in the Czech Republic, based on a French graphic novel, with mostly actors from the West in the English language. On the other hand de director, script writer and production companies are Korean.

  • Pierce Conran

    It's true that it's very international but at the end of the day I would still have to call it a Korean film, if only because Korea had the lion's share of the responsibility on this one. The idea and (most of) the financing came from Korea while a brilliant group of international personnel and services were hired to bring it to life - on top of a Korean director, producer, cinematographer, editor and pair of stars if we just look at the big names.

    Consider the many similar examples from the West such as THE ENGLISH PATIENT. Italian director, British and French stars, based on a book by a Sri Lankan-Canadian writer yet still seen as a Hollywood film.

    However, in this day and age, the term 'local' for big budget films is becoming more and more blurred as directors are hired to make films in foreign industries, limited financing options require global funding solutions, tax incentives spur filmmakers to shoot films around the world, and increased accessibility and the rise of translations make more written works (or pre-existing intl. films) available for adaptation.

    This is what the new age of filmmaking looks like but I still think it's important to recognize a film's origins. SNOWPIERCER is Korea's boldest move yet onto the global filmmaking scene, but it remains a Korean one.

  • Doraemon: The Movie? that's interesting

  • Pierce Conran

    It's actually Doraemon the Movie: Nobita's Secret Gadget Museum but I'm just a tad allergic to writing out these long Japanese anime titles in the chart.

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