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Holiday ‘Game’ plays big in S. Korea

Prime Entertainment film nabs $2.5 million

SEOUL — South Korean cinema rolled out its big guns for the Lunar New Year holiday, and produced an unlikely winner in the modestly budgeted thriller “The Devil’s Game.”

The Prime Entertainment release took an estimated $2.5 million from Thursday to Sunday to land at the top of the box office. Budgeted at $3.7 million, “Game” centers on a case of body switching. Shin Ha-kyun (“Save the Green Planet!”) and Byun Hee-bong (“The Host”) star.

Holding up unexpectedly well after four weeks was sports drama “Forever the Moment” at No. 2 with $2.1 million.

Based on the women’s handball team that competed for Korea in the 2004 Athens Olympics, pic has smashed all expectations with a $21 million gross to date. Observers predict the film’s cume may go as high as $35 million.

The No. 3 spot went to the 1945-set action/comedy “Once Upon a Time in Korea,” the first major investment by SK Telecom’s new film division.

Pic took a slightly disappointing $1.9 million, though a generally warm assessment by audiences has some observers predicting it will move up the rankings over the Lunar New Year holiday proper, which runs from Wednesday to Friday.

The return of Korean Wave star Jun Ji-hyun was not enough to launch CJ Entertainment drama “A Man Who Was Superman,” which took a disappointing $1.5 million despite being booked onto 518 screens, more than any other release.

Also clocking in below expectations was Peter Chan’s HK-Chinese blockbuster “The Warlords,” which grossed $850,000 on 292 screens to take the No. 5 slot.

At No. 6, 1930s-set drama “Radio Dayz,” about Korea’s first radio drama, opened with a weak $600,000 on 315 screens.

All box office figures are supplied by the Korean Film Council, which covers most but not all of the nation’s screens.

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