Busan-set chase thriller “Hard Hit” this weekend became the first local film to head the South Korean box office in more than a month. It earned $2.27 million in its opening weekend.

The arrival of a significant, commercial film from Korea may be a sign of growing confidence that the return to business of the seriously dented exhibition and distribution sectors is now gaining momentum.

For much of this year audiences in Korea have stayed away from cinemas leaving admissions and box office at a small fraction of pre-pandemic levels. That in turn has caused the delay or abandonment of the releases of many local titles. For the past month the only major film releases in Korea have been Hollywood franchise movies enjoying global rollouts now that North American theatrical business has been restarted.

The nationwide weekend total of $7.14 million was, narrowly, the biggest box office weekend of the year. That is the second time that feat has been achieved this month.

Directed by Kim Chang-ju, “Hard Hit” is the tale of a bank employee and his daughter who receive a message that there is a bomb in their car that will detonate if they stop. While the premise appears close to “Speed,” “Hard Hit” is actually derived from 2015 Spanish film “Retribution.”

Filming in the Haeundae area of Busan was completed in the first few months of 2020, at a time when the COVID-19 situation caused a widespread lockdown, but some local productions persevered and benefited from empty streets and easy set-ups.

The film accounted for 32% of the nationwide box office over the weekend, ahead of “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” which moved from extensive previews to full release. “Bodyguard” earned $1.21 million and claimed a 17% market share with a cumulative score of $2.10 million.

“Cruella” dipped from second place on the previous weekend to third this time around. It earned $1.19 million for a cumulative total of $12.5 million.

“A Quiet Place: Part II” fell from first place to fourth, scoring $1.18 million, a 52% decline in its second week of full release. Including previews, it has garnered $5.48 million.

Disney-Pixar’s “Luca” earned $649,000 compared with $944,000 the previous weekend. Since its June 17 release, “Luca” has accumulated $1.99 million.