Big budget movies dying at the box officeKorean producers have been betting the bank to attract larger audiences to movie theaters.
Unfortunately, the results have not been pretty.
Domestic big-budget films do attract moviegoers to theaters, but the numbers turning out have not been enough for all but a few of the latest epics to reach the break-even point.
“Typhoon,” a film by director Kwak Kyung-taek about a North Korean defector-turned-pirate is still playing in theaters, but has a long way to go to recoup the $15.3 million its producers spent on the action adventure.
“Cheongyeon,” another big-budget film, has done far worse. The film about a female pilot cost $9.6 million and took three years to make, including filming on location in Los Angeles, Nagano and Shanghai, before it was released. However, it was unceremoniously dumped from theaters less than two weeks after its debut for the New Year holidays as audiences just didn’t materialize.
It may be too early to comment on the last of the top three domestic films released for the holidays, but “The Beast,” featuring Kwon Sang-woo in a dark action thriller, may have a beastly future as ticket sales so far are not as high as the filmmakers had anticipated.
On the other hand, a mid-budget film, “King and the Clown,” is doing surprisingly well, attracting more than two million people in less than 10 days following its release. Movie pundits say that while ticket sales were high among younger people, the popularity of the film about a mysterious palace clown in the Joseon dynasty has grown among older audience members as well.
“This shows that finding a new, interesting idea is more important in making a blockbuster than using two or more billion won in promoting a film that features expensive stars,” said a movie industry talent agent.
The reason for the failure of most domestic blockbusters may be found in a type of structural problem. Some say that the Korea pop wave is driving production costs to ever greater heights. Some movie buffs even suggest that the size of the film audience in Korea is too small to recoup the money spent on recent big-budget films, and that producers should look for an audience outside the peninsula.
Whatever the reason, the trend for 2006 in Chungmuro, the heart of filmmaking in Korea, seems to be bubble bursting. Instead of inflated costs, fimmakers are looking into more diverse and hopefully cheaper ideas.
So far, there are an estimated 20 films being cranked out over the next two months in Chungmuro, with none of them costing more than $5 million, according to press releases.
“Apartment,” produced by Movie World, will be a suspense story that evolves around a series of mysterious murders in an apartment building. The film is based on a popular comic book of the same title. Ko So-young, a popular model and actress from the 1990s and a heroine in previous horror films, will play the leading role. The total budget for the movie will not exceed $3 million.
“Tazza” (Gambler), is also based on a popular comic book by Hur Young-man and Kim Se-young. The filmmakers chose Cho Seung-woo, a musical actor, to play the clever gambler of the title.
Diverse casting is also noted in this year’s trends. Instead of depending on big-name and therefore expensive stars to act in and promote films, producers are seeking newer faces on the local movie scene.
In “Ttukbang Jeonseol” (The Dykes Legend), MC Mong, a rapper, has been cast to play the main character, while Daniel Henney, a model, will star in “Keanu Kkosigi” (Seducing Keanu).
by Lee Min-a