‘Masquerade’ Becomes Third Most Watched South Korean Film of All Time

1:58 AM PST 12/13/2012 by Lee Hyo-won

Costume drama hits 12.3 million admissions as homegrown movies continue to smash domestic records.

Masquerade became the third most watched South Korean film of all time, selling 12.304 million tickets in the country as of Wednesday, according to its distributor CJ Entertainment.

The costume drama starring Asian megastar Lee Byung-hun (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) achieved the record during its 14th week in theaters. The box office score beats that of King and the Clown, a period drama by Lee Jun-ik that attracted 12.302 million viewers in 2005.

The Thieves, a heist story released earlier this year, remains the most watched local film with 13.03 million admissions, followed by Bong Joon-ho’s 2006 monster-actioner The Host, which hit 13.01 million.

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This year marks what many have called a “neo-renaissance” for Korean cinema, which has been on an upward climb since the 2007 recession.

In late November homegrown movies registered their 100 millionth ticket sale in one year for the first time. The breakthrough was signficantly boosted by the success of The Thieves and Masquerade, which both broke 10 million admissions. Box office for Korean movies currently stands at 107.6 million tickets with a gross value of 785 billion won ($730 billion). Last year, local movies sold 82.9 million tickets and grossed 614 billion won ($540 million).

Market share for Korean movies stands at 59.9%, the highest ratio of the past decade.

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Observers say Masquerade, about a 17th-century king and his body double, has been all the more successful as it was released ahead of the Korean presidential election. “With the presidential election a week away, the story about Ha-seon, a commoner who embodied the ideals of a just king, continues to attract audiences,” said a spokesperson for CJ Entertainment.

The film opened in a handful of U.S. theaters in September via direct distribution by CJ Entertainment, and has so far grossed “a satisfying $898,826,” according to CJ.

“The box office score in itself is small but it is a very impressive record considering that it was through direct distribution,” said a spokesperson for CJ Entertainment. “We are also in talks with other foreign distributors for international sales.”

Meanwhile The Thieves has grossed $681,554 since opening in U.S. theaters in October via Well Go USA. The worldwide figure stands at $83.5 million. 

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