Box Office: 'Han Gong-Ju' Breaks Record for South Korean Indie Films

Han Gong-ju
Han Gong-ju
 Courtesy of Movie Collage

SEOUL – Han Gong-ju rewrote box-office history for South Korea's independent film business over the weekend with more than 140,000 admissions, according to its distributor, Movie Collage. Korean film offices use admissions as the primary measure of a movie's box-office performance, and the film amassed what is considered a blockbuster amount for the genre.

The multiple award-winning teen drama had a strong start, bringing in a record 10,000 viewers on its opening day of April 17 alone -- in spite of a devastating ferry disaster off the southwestern coast of Korea the day before the film opened that has left the entire country in shock, halted the local entertainment industry and driven down theater admissions overall.

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Han Gong-ju has since taken only nine days to cross 100,000 admissions. Top-grossing Korean indie flicks Breathless (2008) and Bedevilled (2010) took 19 days and 10 days, respectively, to reach the landmark. Han Gong-ju has maintained a fifth/sixth ranking in the box office since April 21, and ticket sales are growing stronger as positive film reviews have spread through various web channels.

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The first feature by Lee Su-jin won numerous awards at film festivals around the world, from Busan and Rotterdam to Deauville and Fribourg. Martin Scorsese took notice, calling it "a remarkable and powerful film debut. Strong on all levels."

The movie is about a 17-year-old girl, Han Gong-ju, who is forced to transfer schools after being victimized in a scandalous incident. A friend at her new school discovers Gong-ju's singing talent and creates an online fan site for her. This, however, ends up drawing the attention of the very people who bullied Gong-ju at her former school.

Han Gong-ju will be represented by Korean sales company Finecut at the 2014 Cannes Film Market from May 14 to 23.

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