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Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar contender Parasite continues to feed on impressive numbers as it widens its reach at the U.S. box office in advance of the Feb. 9 Academy Awards ceremony, where it will compete for the best picture prize.
Through Feb. 2, the genre-bending thriller’s domestic gross rested at $33.2 million, one of the best showings of all time for a foreign-language film. When Parasite first opened in select theaters in October, it scored a massive per-location average of $131,000 — the best showing of 2019. Still, even the most seasoned box office analysts said that the South Korean film would top out at no more than $20 million in the U.S.
One of the secrets to the specialty pic’s ongoing, surprise success is its appeal to younger consumers (Gen Z and millennials).
When Parasite finally expanded nationwide late last month after scoring numerous accolades, almost 60 percent of ticket buyers over the Jan. 24-26 weekend were between ages 18 and 34, according to those with access to PostTrak’s exit surveys.
Often, movies competing in the Oscar race draw their box office strength from older, “adult” moviegoers, but Parasite is skewing younger than most. In its second weekend in wide release (1,060 cinemas), Parasite‘s 18 to 34 audience was again at 61 percent.
That compares with 40 and 47 percent, respectively, for fellow best picture contenders 1917 and Little Women in their second weekends, according to PostTrak.
“Parasite is a hit with younger audiences for whom the movie likely represents the epitome of cool international cinema. The film has become a conversation piece with layers of plot that unravel like an onion and this has fueled massive social media buzz and of course with multiple Oscar nominations, a solid increase in box office for a film that might have otherwise stalled out short of $30 million in North America,” says Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore.
In a second milestone, Parasite has passed up 2017’s I, Tonya ($30 million) to become the top-grossing release in the three-year history of U.S. indie distributor Neon, run by Tom Quinn, not adjusted for inflation.
Parasite — about an impoverished family who con their rich bosses — is nominated for six Oscars, including best picture, best director and best original screenplay.
Among other awards wins so far, Parasite is the first foreign-language film ever to receive top honors from the Screen Actors Guild.
Globally, Parasite‘s gross currently rests at more than $163 million, led by South Korea with more than $73 million in ticket sales.
Parasite isn’t the only best-picture contender enjoying a major awards boost at the box office — 1917 has grossed a stellar $250 million to date globally, followed by Little Women with $164 million and Jojo Rabbit with $65 million.
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