Hong Kong director Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer has scored big in South Korea, grossing $1.2m nationwide in its first three days to secure the number two spot at the box-office behind Spider-Man.

Distributed jointly by Cinema Service and Film Bank, the film's release was timed to take advantage of World Cup hype as Korea and Japan prepare to jointly host the worldwide event from May 31.

The film, which broke box-office records in Hong Kong last year, tells the story of a ragtag group of losers who employ Shaolin kung fu to become soccer greats. Actor/director Chow took a trip to Seoul in early May to promote the film, spending time with Cinema Service founder Kang Woo-suk, who says he will invest in Chow's next project.

With its strong opening, Shaolin Soccer looks assured to become the best-selling Hong Kong release of recent years (see chart). Although Hong Kong films were some of the strongest performers at the box-office in the early 1990s, the market has been so unfavorable in recent years that high-profile titles such as Johnnie To's The Mission have gone straight to video.

Also performing well this week in Spider-Man's shadow was local hit The Way Home, which is projected to become the seventh Korean film in history to break the four million admissions mark; and Over The Rainbow, a drama about memory loss starring award-winning actress Chang Jin-young.

Top Hong Kong films in Seoul, admissions 1999-2002

1. Fly Me To Polaris (2000) -- 202,840
2. The Accidental Spy (2001) -- 173,800
3. Gorgeous (1999) -- 135,855
4. City Of Glass (1999) -- 126,124
5. Moonlight Express (1999) -- 83,124
6. Shaolin Soccer (2002) -- 78,400*
7. A Man Called Hero (1999) -- 77,798
8. The Storm Riders (1999) --77,090

*after 3 days on release