Culture | Star Wars drubbed in Korea; romcom reigns in China

Star Wars drubbed in Korea; romcom reigns in China

Homegrown crime drama Master tops the Korean box office, while My Lover accumulates US$37.9 million in first week in China

January 5, 2017 12:39 PM (UTC+8)
Cho Ui-seok's crime drama Master
Cho Ui-seok's crime drama Master

After lacking the Force” on its Japanese debut, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story got shown whos boss of the Korean box office by the crime drama Master in the opening week of 2017.

In its second week out, Cho Ui-seokMaster controlled 44% of the market and added just over US$10 million to reach a cumulative gross of US$37.6 million. In contrast, Rogue One has grossed a mere US$6.1 million since its Korean premiere on December 28. Adding melodic insult to intergalactic injury, musicals Sing (total gross US$8.4 million) and La La Land (total gross US$17.8 million) have both continued to outperform the George Lucas franchise.  

Further down the Korean chart, as Pandora (currently US$29.1 million) falls to number five, the bottom half of the top 10 is dominated by Japanese anime. Landing on its feet in sixth position, Rudolf the Black Cat has lapped up US$1 million since its December 28 release. The fact that this cute anime outperformed the Japanese juggernaut Your Name, which made around US$530,000 over the holiday weekend, seems remarkable.

Until, that is, you realize that Rudolf played on 100 more screens and for several days longer. With Shinkai Makoto’s anime on full Korean release from January 4, Your Name is likely to replicate its success at home in Japan and in China. Once that happens, Rudolf the Black Cat can expect to drop down with the likes of Pokemon the Movie: Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel, and Doraemon The Movie: Nobita and the Birth of Japan, both of which have been dogging the lower levels of the Korean top 10 since before Christmas.

The only possible Korean handicap for the anime blockbuster is that it has already played at two major South Korean film festivals (the Busan International Film Festival and the Bucheon International Animation Festival). That said, Your Name’s track record suggests it has a larger public awaiting than just festival audiences.

In contrast to Rogue One’s South Korean drubbing, in Japan the Star Wars Empire struck back over the extended holiday weekend. Your Name did likewise.

However, both films were outplayed by Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, which accumulated an additional US$2.58 million to reach the top of the Japanese box office. The sixth entry in the Resident Evil series only just outscored Rogue One, which climbed back to the number two position with takings of US$2.55 million in this past week.

An even more spectacular comeback was Your Name’s 41% improvement on its pre-New Year audience to reclaim the number three spot, having fallen to number 7 last week.   

Meanwhile in China, the battle of the box office was won by a romantic comedy called Some Like It Hot. Don’t jump to conclusions. There is no Marilyn Monroe revival sweeping China. In fact, the film — starring Xiao Yang, Yan Ni and Xiaoshenyang — is known by the title My Lover in China. Leapfrogging above Railroad Tigers (current gross US$78 million), The Great Wall (US$153.2 million) and See You Tomorrow (US$64.8 million), My Lover has accumulated US$37.9 million since its December 30 release.

Read: more on Asian film from Asia Times

With the popularity of Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge (US$54.1 million) being the obvious exception, kiddie-pleasers have been plentiful in China over the end of year holidays. Russian cartoon The Snow Queen 2: The Snow King (US$4 million) and Zhu Zhu Xia Ying Xiong Zhu Shao Nian (US$1.2 million), which is the fourth entry in the popular GG Bond animation series, attracted a rush of family ticket buyers.

But now that everyone is back to work, these animations are quickly fading from the charts. Other new Chinese releases, such as the crime comedy Provoking Laughter (US$2.4 million) and the comic suspense hybrid, The Insanity (US$ 1.9 million), both of which were slow starters, are showing more staying power now that the young’uns’ fare is out of the way.

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