South Korea Box Office: 'Dunkirk' Dominates With Impressive $10.3M Debut

Director Christopher Nolan is a huge draw in the Asian country, which gave the critically acclaimed war film its biggest opening outside of the U.S. and the U.K.

Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk led the South Korean box office over the weekend, opening to a hugely impressive $10.3, million according to Warner Bros, making the Asian country the third largest market for the war movie behind the U.S. ($50.5 million) and Nolan's home market of the U.K. ($12.4 million). 

Dunkirk, with a wide release on 1,245 screens, dominated with a 46.5 percent audience share among all titles shown in South Korea over the weekend. Dunkirk's opening weekend was also one of the biggest openings for any Warner Bros. film in the country, topping both Gravity and American Sniper— the only film with a bigger opening was Nolan's 2014 sci-fi drama Interstellar.

Interstellar ranks among the top films of all time in South Korea and solidified the British director's reputation as a box- office draw in South Korea. Interstellar is among just over a dozen films that have crossed 10 million admissions in a country with a population of about 50 million (local industry observers primarily use admissions to measure box-office performance), and made $73.5 million in revenue.

According to industry experts, Dunkirk's phenomenal early success in Korea is largely down to the strong fan base for Nolan.

"Among film buffs in their 20s and 30s — who make up a large part of the moviegoing demographic — there is absolute confidence in Christopher Nolan films. These fans consider The Dark Knight one of the great modern classics," film critic and programmer Kim Bong-seok tells THR. "Korean audiences will trust the quality of Nolan films, regardless of whether one actually likes them or not."

The local PR rep for Dunkirk also says the confidence in the filmmaker here is quite singular.

"Nolan's previous title [Interstellar] reached 10 million admissions here, and he has always been a star director for Koreans," said Kim Tae-joo of All That Cinema. "Audiences here respond very quickly and strongly to new, innovative and intellectually stimulating content. Koreans also tend to like stories that experiment with time, such as Interstellar and Inception, and Dunkirk offers many novelties. These factors combined with the fact that the number of moviegoers is increasing in Korea can be seen as driving the success of Dunkirk."

Nolan's critically acclaimed WWII-set movie towered over other imported Hollywood summer tentpoles. Spider-Man: Homecoming, which had topped the Korean charts for two straight weeks, stepped down to No. 2 with 21.1 percent of the share. The number of screens has almost halved, from 1,781 last week down to 918. Homecoming's total revenue is $50.3 million.

Ranking third was the U.K. maritime thriller 47 Meters Down, which accounted for about 12 percent of the market or a cume $3.2 million, according to the Korean Film Council's KOBIS database. Two animated features took the remaining shares, with Japanese anime Crayon Shinchan 2017 Theatrical Film: Invasion! Alien Shiriri (4.6 percent; cume $934,249) finishing at No. 4 and Cars 3 (3.8 percent; gross total $22.3 million) coming in at No. 5.

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