Han Jae-rim’s The King claims Korean crown

Your Name back on top in Japan, while US sci-fi releases dominate in China

January 24, 2017 3:49 PM (UTC+8)
A still from Han Jae-Rim's The King
A still from Han Jae-Rim's The King

Most film-makers can only dream of a number one hit, even just for a week. But Shinkai Makoto’s indefatigable anime sensation Your Name reached the apex of the Japanese box office for a third time at the weekend.

Having launched at number one last August, the anime powerhouse briefly dropped to second place at the beginning of November before quickly reclaiming the top position. Now, after several weeks of descending the charts Your Name – thanks to a recent Imax reboot, last week’s English language release for resident gaijin and perhaps even a touch of national pride from Japanese film-goers – has taken the top spot once again. Evicting last week’s chart-topping Honnouji Hotel, the anime juggernaut gathered US$1.5 million at the weekend to reach a cumulative gross of US$207.2 million in Japan.

In third place, priapic auteur Sono Sion managed to outperform Martin Scorsese, who came fourth. Could Shinjuku Swan II, based on a manga about recruiting flesh for the adult entertainment business, really be more popular with Japanese audiences than Silence, a film about religious persecution based on a novel by a home-grown Nobel laureate?

It’s easy to jump to conclusions, but the reverse may be true in the long run. The US$1.4 million Sono scored for this sequel is down on the US$2 million the original instalment made during its 2015 opening. In contrast, Japanese pundits believe that the local audience for Silence skews older and is more likely to support the film steadily – if not spectacularly – over the next few weeks.

Mel Brooks once observed, “It’s good to be King”. That’s certainly true in South Korea this week. The King, writer/director Han Jae-rim’s self-produced follow-up to his 2013 hit The Face Reader claimed the crown at the Korean box office by taking over US$14.2 million, or 42 per cent of the market, after opening on January 18.

With its story of a lawyer on a self-propelled mission to be the most powerful prosecutor on the peninsula, The King managed to keep ahead of Kim Sung-hoon’s espionage fantasy Confidential Assignment. Featuring Hyun-Bin as a North Korean detective who travels South in search of a refugee trafficker, Confidential Assignment also opened on January 18 and has taken US$8.9 million, cornering close to 30 per cent of the market.

Read more on Asian film at Asia Times

In China, this week’s box office was dominated by two American science fiction films. Having taken off a week prior to the Dennis Villeneuve-directed Arrival, Passengers – a Jennifer Lawrence/Chris Pratt sci-fi romance – kept its popularity over the weekend, adding US$6.8 million in ticket sales to bring its overall tally to US$34.6 million. However, that was bested by Passengers, which took in US$7.3 million on its first weekend, despite outperforming Arrival on Friday only.

Sitting just behind the US fare is a retreating cavalcade of former Chinese audience favourites: My Lover, aka Some Like It Hot (current gross US$84.6 million), Rogue One (currently on US$62.6 million), Railroad Tigers (now US$97.6 million), The Great Wall (now US$167.3 million) and Hacksaw Ridge, which at $US60.3 million has almost equalled its Stateside gross of US$65 million. Say goodbye to those titles, though: courtesy of an influx of films prepared for the Chinese New Year period, the Chinese box office will look completely different in a week’s time.

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