Sumptuous foreign costume dramas are seducing Korean audiences, while action films also work well.
According to a recent Korean Film Council (Kofic) report analysing audience trends from 1998 to 2008, 45.9% of Koreans expressed a preference for Korean films, while 36.5% said they preferred US films.
45.9% of Koreans expressed a preference for Korean films, while 36.5% said they preferred US films.
European films were favoured by 2.6% and the same number liked Chinese/Hong Kong titles, while 1.7% preferred Japanese films; 10.7% said they had no preference where a film originated.
This is reflected in the box-office breakdown in a country where local films of recent years have held their own against US titles. Last year, local films took 42.5% of the 144.5 million admissions for first-run films, while US films took 48.4%. Combined, Korean and US films claimed 90.8% with other foreign films dividing up the remainder — a generally common occurrence in the annual statistical breakdown.
Local audiences tend to favour action and comedy titles. Comedy does not always travel well internationally, but US animation Kung Fu Panda grossed an impressive $22.3m (won30bn), making it the top grossing foreign film last year. A Hong Kong sci-fi comedy, Stephen Chow’s CJ7, also featured in the top 100.
Foreign action films, thrillers, sci-fi and period pieces work better with local audiences. For instance, kidnap thriller Taken, designated as a French film and distributed by Studio2.0, was the highest grossing non-US, non-local film.
Period drama can do well, with UK costume drama The Duchess earning $1.2m (won1.5bn) last year. Costume drama with action and fantasy elements — such as Peter Ho-sun Chan’s Chinese martial-arts fantasy The Warlords, are popular; the film took $1.9m (won2.5bn). John Woo’s historical action drama Red Cliff Part 1, which was co-financed and locally distributed by Showbox Mediaplex on more than 400 screens, grossed $7.6m (won10.2bn).
Japanese animation also fared well in Korea last year, with Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea and Doraemon: New Nobita’s Great Adventure In The Underworld taking $5.3m (won7bn) and $1.4m (won1.9bn) respectively. Both were bought by Daewon Media. The widely anticipated Ponyo was distributed by Showbox Mediaplex on more than 300 screens, and the latter, a children’s animation, by Daewon itself on 83 screens.
Another children’s animation, the 3D film Happily N’Ever After (released in Korea as Ella’s Adventure), bought by Megabox and distributed by Showbox, also featured in the top 100 with a gross of $1.3m (won1.7bn).