Three local movies took the top positions at the South Korean box office over the weekend for the first time this year. The chart was headed by “Hostage Missing Celebrity,” which earned close to $4 million.

Produced by Filmmaker R&K and distributed by Next Entertainment World, “Hostage” is a comedy-action movie starring the enduringly-popular, rubber-faced Hwang Jung-min. He plays a celebrity, unimaginatively called Jung-min, who at first believes that his kidnapping is merely a prank. But as the ordeal continues, both he and his tormentors become more desperate. It was directed by first-timer Pil Gam-seong.

Data from the Kobis tracking service operated by the Korean Film Council showed “Hostage” to be followed by last week’s winner “Sinkhole” and another former chart topper “Escape From Mogadishu.” Weekend scores were $3.92 million from 1,285 screens, $2.77 million from 1,250 screens and $1.82 million from 966 screens, respectively.

After five days in cinemas “Hostage” has a $5.41 million total. “Sinkhole” has amassed $13.9 million since Aug. 11. “Mogadishu” has $22.7 million since July 28.

The top foreign title over the weekend was M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old” with $448,000 from 525 screens. It debuted on Wednesday and scored a total of $715,000 over five days. On its second weekend, “Free Guy” earned $311,000 for a total of $2.18 million since Aug. 11.

U.S. movies also took the next five chart places. New release, “Paw Patrol” earned $209,000 over the weekend and $282,000 since release on Wednesday, good enough for sixth place. It was followed by” “The Suicide Squad” with $69,900 over the weekend (for a cumulative of $3.68 million since Aug. 4); “Boss Baby: Family Business” with $47,400 (for a cumulative of $7.04 million since July 21); “Black Widow” with $38.200 (for a year high cumulative of $25.5 million); and new release “Palm Springs” with $26,200 over the weekend, and a four day cumulative of $38,900.

After an initial five months of extreme weakness, the Korean box office has sustained a higher level of activity since the beginning of June. Across all titles, the latest weekend total weighed in at $9.92 million, fractionally short of the previous $10.4 million weekend session.

July performance pointed to an annualized trend of some $700 million. That is a 40% improvement on June’s $41 million aggregate. But it is still a long way short of the $1.6 billion full year total that made South Korea the fourth largest cinema market in the world in 2019.