With all of the five highest grossing films of the year being local productions and the top title, Friend (pictured), taking the all-time box office crown, Korean cinema achieved an unprecedented 46.1% market share for Seoul last year, and an estimated 49.1% for the country as a whole.

According to year-end figures published by the Korean Film Commission (KOFIC), this amounts to a stunning 14.1 percentage points higher than the 32% market share recorded for the year 2000.

Total market size for Seoul was calculated to be 35m admissions and $174 million. Hollywood features accounted for 47% of this total, with 59 films distributed directly (30.2%) and 73 films handled by local distributors (16.8%). Films from Europe accounted for 4.1% of the total (38 releases), with Japanese (24 releases, 1.4%), Chinese (13 releases, 0.9%) and other territories (4 releases, 0.6%) making up the remainder.

Korean cinema's strength at the box office was driven by blockbuster hits, with the top five grossing films of the year all produced locally. The gangster-noir film Friend, released on March 31, became the highest grossing film ever with 2.58m Seoul admissions, breaking the record set by Joint Security Area in 2000. Following behind were four comedies: My Sassy Girl (1.76m), Kick The Moon (1.61m), My Wife Is A Gangster (1.47m), and Hi, Dharma (1.30m).

The highest-grossing imported film was Shrek with 1.12m admissions, followed by Harry Potter (1.11m to Dec. 31), Pearl Harbor (1.08m), and The Mummy Returns (955,000).

As for distributors, local studio Cinema Service captured a leading 22.6% market share with 26 features released (14 local, 10 imported). Second place was secured by last year's leader CJ Entertainment, which took 14.7% of the market with 22 features. Korea Pictures, a new distribution company which distributed hits Friend and My Wife Is A Gangster, followed behind with a 13.1% market share from only seven releases.

Among foreign distributors, Warner Brothers secured the largest share with 9.1% of the market for 17 films. Others included UIP with 15 releases (7.8%), Buena Vista International with 19 releases (7.1%), Columbia Tristar (5.8%), and 20th Century Fox (3.7%).

Seoul top ten films by admissions, 2001

1. Friend (S Korea), Korea Pictures


2. My Sassy Girl (S Korea), Cinema Service


3. Kick The Moon (S Korea), Cinema Service


4. My Wife Is A Gangster (S Korea), Korea Pictures


5. Hi, Dharma (S Korea), Cineworld


6. Shrek (US), CJ Entertainment


7. Harry Potter' (UK/US), Warner Bros


8. Pearl Harbor (US), BVI


9. The Mummy Returns (US), UIP


10. Guns & Talks (S Korea), Cinema Service


* to Dec 31