South Korean zombie action film “Peninsula” made a blistering start in cinemas across Asia. It is the highest-profile, first-run summer tentpole to have released since the coronavirus forced many cinemas in the region to close.
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, “Peninsula” is a survival story that takes place four years after the zombie apocalypse events recounted in Yeon’s 2016 film “Train to Busan.” It stars Gang Dong-won and Lee Jung-hyun.
The film earned $2.4 million from 353,000 admissions on Wednesday in its home territory, where its release is handled by Next Entertainment World.
In Taiwan, where it is released by MovieCloud, it earned $799,000 from 94,100 ticket sales. And in Singapore, where the release is through Clover Films, it earned $106,000 (S$147,000) from 15,200 patrons.
Those scores were the highest ever opening day for a Korean film in Singapore. In Taiwan, the figures were bigger than the forerunner “Busan” which was released in 2016 at a time when social distancing measures were not limiting cinema capacity. MovieCloud CEO Wayne Chang told Variety that the results were “crazy.”
Taiwan has been a beacon of success in handling the coronavirus through mask-use, contact-tracing, quarantine and border controls. Audience numbers tumbled in March and April, but at no time did the government order cinemas to shut.
Starved of new content from Hollywood studios, Taiwan’s distributors adapted to the new reality by re-releasing older films and releasing a wider than normal mix of English-language independent titles and Asian movies. They now have a mostly full release program until the end of the year.
“Peninsula” opened in Malaysia on Thursday. And is expected to release next week in Thailand and Vietnam.
But the possibility of setbacks remains. “Peninsula” was to have opened in Hong Kong on Wednesday. But that day became the first day of a new shut down ordered by the Hong Kong authorities in order to minimise the impact of a third wave of COVID-19 infections. Hong Kong cinemas were previously shut for six weeks from late March, but reopened in early May and have been operating largely normally, albeit with social distancing measures and without Hollywood tentpoles.
Chinese authorities said Thursday that some mainland cinemas can at last reopen from Monday. While that is a help to the newly-reinstated Shanghai International Film Festival, which will operate from July 25, the big Hollywood titles do not yet have confirmed release dates.
Despite that, there is no sign that “Peninsula” will release in mainland China. Due to an ongoing, semi-official boycott of Korean cultural goods, no South Korean film has been released in Chinese cinemas for more than two years. And “Peninsula,” licensed to some 190 territories, does not yet have a license deal for China, sales agent Contents Panda confirmed.