Kang Je-gyu's Korean War epic Taegukgi is enjoying a record-breaking opening in its native country, becoming South Korea's first film ever to reach 2 million admissions ($11.3m) in five days.
Released by distributor Showbox on February 5 on a record 443 prints, the film has already broken the territory's records for opening day (324,000 admissions) and weekend (1.78 million) performances. The film expanded to 453 screens on Monday and looks likely to face little competition in the next couple of weeks.
Director Kang, whose previous film Shiri was a watershed hit in 1999, assembled a top cast and technical crew for Taegukgi, which at $12.8m is Korea's largest-budgeted film in history. An additional $1.7m was lavished on a p&a spend that included a well-publicised "world premiere" screening on February 3 for foreign and local guests.
Taegukgi tells the story of two brothers from Seoul who are enlisted into the army against their will shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. The older brother seeks to win a Medal of Honour so as to secure the younger brother's discharge, but in the course of fighting he begins to lose himself in the passions of war.
The film's two stars Jang Dong-gun (Friend) and Won Bin (Guns & Talks) have wide fan followings in Korea, and are also becoming well-known in Japan - Korea's most important overseas market. Production company KangJeGyu Films has already pre-sold the picture to Universal Japan for an undisclosed sum.
Much attention is now focused on whether it will beat the box-office record held by Cinema Service's Silmido, which is still on release having amassed more than 9 million admissions.