South Korean comedy Hi Dharma (pictured) has set a new box-office record by drawing 203,600 viewers in Seoul on its opening weekend and earning over $4m nationwide.. Filling seats to a 93% capacity, the film broke the previous 2-day Seoul record of 197,426 admissions set in 2000 by Mission: Impossible 2.
Hi Dharma, directed by debut filmmaker Park Chul-gwan, tells the story of a group of gangsters who take refuge in a Buddhist temple. While in hiding, they come into conflict with the resident monks, who turn out to be tougher than they expect.
The film follows a string of box-office successes for Korean movies this year, many of which have focused on gangsters. In October, boosted by local hits My Wife Is A Gangster and Guns & Talks, Korean films captured 70.5% of the local market.
Hi Dharma's popularity will be tested this weekend with the opening of The Last Witness, an action/mystery film by Bae Chang-ho which opened the 2001 Pusan International Film Festival. Online polls have indicated this film to be the month's most anticipated release.
The success of Hi Dharma marks a step forward for Cineworld Entertainment, a local acquisitions and distribution company. Established in 1987 as a film marketing company, Cineworld entered the production/distribution field in 1998 and has scored successes in 2001 with Memento and Rush Hour 2.