‘Mamma Mia!’ ‘Les Miz’ Korea’s No. 1 film musical

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‘Mamma Mia!’ ‘Les Miz’ Korea’s No. 1 film musical

Tom Hooper’s thunderclap big-screen adaptation of the ever-popular stage musical “Les Miserables” has become the highest-grossing movie ever in the musical genre category at the Korean box office, surpassing “Mamma Mia”(2008).

As of yesterday more than five million tickets had been sold within 30 days of its release, according to the Korean Film Council. The musical ranks 11th all-time in the foreign-language film category.

“We are cautiously positive about entering the Top 10 list,”said Yeom Hyun-jeong, a representative of Universal Pictures International Korea, a distributor of the musical drama. “This is not about how many people watched ‘Les Miserables.’ The feat that the film achieved is more about the diversity it brings about.”

In Korea, the all-time top-ranking movies are dominated by action blockbusters or franchise pictures such as “The Avengers” (2012), “Transformers” (2007) and “Mission: Impossible III” (2006).

The audience for musical dramas would traditionally be considered as niche at the local box office, but “Les Miserables” garnered an emotional outpouring from moviegoers, with reports of audiences crying and bursting into applause after the last scene.

Strong ticket sales have also translated into a boost in sales of film-related merchandise.

Online shopping mall YES24 said the stage to screen transfer is dominating CD, DVD and book categories, with the ‘Les Miserables’ soundtrack album at the top of the site’s music chart and music from the original musical at fifth.

Experts point to different factors for the strong performance of the star-studded film.

“The movie deals with the issues that Koreans care about most now: the widening disparity between the rich and poor, justice and equality,” said Hyun Taek-soo, a sociology professor at Korea University. “‘Les Miserables’ explores the issues in an artistic way.”

Others say the Hollywood film serves as a wake-up call to the entrenched capitalism that places less emphasis on humanity.

“One might consider the storyline as a bit old-fashioned compared to the latest productions,” said Won Yong-jin, a communications professor at Sogang University. “But it offers an opportunity to reflect on values like justice, which we often can’t afford to give thought to in a rat-race society.”

“Les Miserables” has won over fans and critics alike, scooping three Golden Globes last Sunday, including best actor and best supporting actress in a musical or comedy for Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway.

The film also garnered eight Oscar nominations, including nods for Jackman and Hathaway, as well as being shortlisted in the best picture category.

By Park Eun-jee [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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