2014 South Korean Box Office: 'Roaring Currents' Takes All-Time Record, Stellar Year for Hollywood

Roaring Currents Still - H 2014
Courtesy of CJ Entertainment

Roaring Currents Still - H 2014

'The Admiral: Roaring Currents' became the biggest film of all time, while a string of Hollywood titles broke local records

For the South Korean box office, 2014 was a groundbreaking year, with local epic The Admiral: Roaring Currents becoming the top film of all time and Hollywood films booming like never before.

South Koreans spent more money than ever on movies, with the annual box-office revenue totaling $1.42 billion (1.56 trillion won) as of Dec. 20, up $20 million from 2013's $1.4 billion.

One of the chief reasons for such a stellar year at the South Korean box office is because more movies have been released. The total number of titles that hit screens per year surpassed 1,000 for the first time (1,068), compared to 907 in 2013, 641 in 2012 and the 300-to-400 range from 2005 to 2011.

Total theater admissions — 201.87 million as of Dec. 20 — went slightly down from last year's 213.35 million, when the annual attendance record for cinemas crossed 200 million for the first time in Korean box-office history. This can be attributed to how theater admissions plummeted as much as 30 percent shortly after a tragic ferry disaster left the entire country in shock as they closely monitored the news on rescue efforts.

Read more South Korea Box Office: Homegrown Documentary Beats 'Interstellar,' 'Exodus'

In spite of the slight decrease in moviegoers, however, several box-office records were broken. Local epic The Admiral: Roaring Currents (CJ Entertainment) surprised everyone as it beat Avatar in attendance rate and revenue. It attracted 17.6 million admissions in a country with a population of just 50 million, grossing $127 million (compared to Avatar's 13.3 million admissions and $116.6 million).

Though homegrown films have dominated the local box office in recent years, Hollywood imports thrived this year. Five of the year's top 10 films hailed from the U.S. — a stark contrast from just one in 2013.

Frozen became the first animated film to break the 10 million-admissions mark in Korea and the second-highest-grossing foreign picture in the country after Avatar. Korea was the most successful market for Begin Again, which became the most successful indie film of all time in Korea, with $24.6 million. The phenomenal popularity of Interstellar has seen the emergence of scalpers in Korean theaters, and the film, still playing in theaters, is nearing the 10 million admissions milestone and is already the third best imported film of all time.

Read more Busan: Choi Min-sik on Hollywood Breakthrough, Lucy, Roaring Currents

During the month of November alone, as Gone Girl and Interstellar enjoyed back-to-back successes, a monthly box-office report released by the Korean Film Council showed that the market share of Korean films fell to 21.4 percent. Korean films earned about $25 million less compared to November 2013, while imports earned $43 million more.

The market share of U.S. films for 2014 shot up 47.8 percent as of Dec. 20, to nearly match the 48 percent that Korean films took. From 2012 to 2013, Hollywood films accounted for about 36 percent, while homegrown titles dominated with 58 percent.

Here is the list of South Korea's top 10 box-office performers in 2014:

1.       The Admiral: Roaring Currents ($127 million)

2.       Frozen ($77 million)

3.       Interstellar ($71.4 million as of Dec. 19)

4.       The Pirates ($60.25 million)

5.       Miss Granny ($56.93 million)

6.       Transformers: Age of Extinction ($40 million)

7.       The Attorney ($38 million; total gross including 2013 figures is $75.25 million)

8.       Edge of Tomorrow ($35.15 million)

9.       Kundo: Age of the Rampant ($33.58 million)

10.    The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($31.46 million)