'Flower,' 'Bedtime' top first weekend of 2009

HONG KONG — With the exceptions of Japan and India, Asia’s first box office weekend of 2009 was dominated by two new releases — sexy Korean drama “Frozen Flower” and Disney family comedy “Bedtime Stories.”

Released unusually on a Tuesday (Dec. 30), “Flower” grossed $6.53 million from 1.27 million admissions on 500 screens for distributor Showbox.

Helmed by Yoo Ha (“A Dirty Carnival”), pic is a historical drama about a love triangle between a king, his queen and a bodyguard and attracted an adults-only rating in South Korea. Despite that, it passed the million ticket mark in only four days, a record for adults-only films in South Korea. 

“Flower” finally deposed surprise hit “Scandal Makers” (aka “Overspeed Scandal”), which had been top of the chart for four weeks.

“Scandal” slipped to second place taking a further $2 million from 388,000 admissions on a 341-screen release by distributor Lotte. “Scandal’s” cume now stands at $24.6 million — a huge take for a film budgeted at $2.1 million.

The week’s only other major release in South Korea, Disney animation “Bolt” took $1.79 million from 351,000 admissions on 279 screens after opening Dec. 31.

 “Bedtime Stories” took $2.9 million over the weekend in Asia, topping the charts in four of the smaller territories. It ranked No. 1 in Thailand ($334,000), Indonesia ($277,000) and Taiwan ($164,000) and, in its second frame, in Singapore ($328,000). It has yet to release in some of the bigger territories.

Hong Kong spectators wrestled with a different set of new releases. Media Asia’s local detective thriller “Lady Cop and Papa Crook,” with $425,000 on 38 screens through distributor Newport, nabbed the top spot, just ahead of martial arts actioner “Ip Man” performing strongly with $408,000 in its third week for a 19-day cume of $3 million. Those two edged out Thai martial arts period pic “Ong bak 2,” which earned $367,000 from a wide 37-screen release for distributor Edko.

In China, Chen Kaige’s biopic “Forever Enthralled” (aka “Mei Lan Fang”) managed a $149,000 take for Emperor Motion Pictures, although the arthouse pic was released at just 11 locations. The film, which is headed for competition in Berlin next month, has already passed the 100 million yen ($14.6 million) mark in three weeks of release in China.

There were no significant releases over the New Year weekend in Japan and the chart was again topped by “Wall-E,” which soaked up a further $3.19 million on its way to a local cume of $33 million after five weeks. That kept Fox Intl.’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in second place with $2.66 million.

In other territories, “Earth” tumbled. It suffered a 77% gravitational pull in South Korea, taking $489,000 in its third week for a cume of $7.35 million, in Indonesia and Taiwan it was off 74% for respective cumes of $706,000 and $1.07 million.

Singapore, often out of sequence with the rest of Asia by a couple of weeks, was topped by “Bedtime Stories.” “Ip Man,” in its third week, took second place with $241,000 for local distrib Cathay-Keris. Its Singapore cume stands at $1.65 million.

Place honors in Singapore were shared by five other new releases. Sony’s Will Smith starrer “Seven Pounds” got its Asian bow in third place with $206,000 from 26 screens, ahead of Golden Village-released actioner “Transporter 3.” Golden Village also gave an outing to hit Japanese toon “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,” which took $105,000 from 14 locations. Shaw Org’s “Ong bak 2″ was officially still in preview, but charted in eighth with $67,000, while “Lady Cop and Papa Crook,” also handled by Shaw, only cracked 10th place.

India was dominated by “Ghajini,” an Aamir Khan starrer that mixes violent action and slushy romance. Released by Studio 18, producer the Indian Film Co. claims a $14.3 million four-day opening weekend and a first week total of $22.4 million. It was released on 650 screens on Dec. 24, widening to 1,500 screens on Dec. 25. Reliable figures for the first weekend of January were not available.

(Han Sunhee in Seoul and Marcus Lim in Hong Kong also contributed to this report.)

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