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Korean Box Office Dominated by Record Breaking ‘Roaring Currents’

SEOUL — Decent performances at the South Korean box office by “How To Train Your Dragon 2” and “Kundo: Age of The Rampant” were overshadowed as local period actioner “Roaring Currents” delivered an unprecedented first weekend performance.

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” a global phenomenon elsewhere, could only manage fourth place in its opening frame.

Released on Wednesday July 30, “Roaring Currents” took only 37 hours to sell its first million tickets. It attracted 3.68 million spectators over the strictly defined Fri-Sun weekend, and finished the fuller five day weekend with a total of 4.759 million tickets sold. In cash terms that was a five day score of $35.5 million (KRW36.8 billion).

In a statement, distributor CJ Entertainment said that the film passed the symbolic 5 million ticket sales mark at 9.30 am today (Monday, Aug. 4). Many forecasters now expect the film to reach 10 million, joining an elite club alongside “The Attorney,” “Haeundae” and “Avatar.”

The film was aided by a super-wide release of over 1,500 screens and the marketing firepower of the country’s largest distributor. That CJ is part of the same vertically and horizontally conglomerate that also includes South Korea’s biggest cinema chain, CJ-CGV, reignited previously heard accusations of monopoly influence.

“When one single film is screened on so many screens across the country, this could mean the demise of good-quality independent films. On the surface, this may seem like a boom in the Korean film industry, but [others] feel totally defeated by this unfair monopoly of films produced, distributed and screened by conglomerates,” said critic, Jung Ji-wook.

CJ indeed scored a one-two as it also saw “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” released a week previously, hold in second place, with a box office score of US$4.51 million (KRW4.67 billion) from 575,000 spectators. That gave it a cume of US$16.5 million (KRW17.1 billion).

The huge numbers also lifted the stocks CJ E & M and CJ CGV, by 9% and 5% respectively.

The remarkable score by “Roaring Currents” swiftly overtook the score of “Kundo: Age of the Rampant,” which only a week before had claimed the all-comers’ opening record in the country. In third place this week, “Kundo” managed a much more ordinary weekend score of US$3.99 million (KRW4.138 billion) from 515,000 tickets. After 12 days its cume stands at KRW34.7 billion (US$33.5 billion) from 4.47 million ticket sales.

“Guardians,” which opened on Thurs (July 31) on 539 screens, managed 459,000 spectators over the three day weekend and completed a four day plus previews cume of 582,000 tickets. That gave it a box office cume of KRW4.92 billion (US$4.75 million).

Behind the leading quartet, no other movie had more than 1% of the market.

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