Dragon pic 'D-War' fires up boxoffice


SEOUL -- "D-War," the Korean movie in which giant dragons invade Los Angeles, scored a big domestic boxoffice opening this week, becoming the second local hit in as many weeks and prompting hope of giving Hollywood imports a run for their money this summer.

"D-War" earned $2.8 million from 417,000 admissions Wednesday, making it the biggest domestic Wednesday opening ever, distributor Showbox said. The opening bolstered a local boxoffice spike that began last week with the opening of CJ Entertainment's "May 18," the true-life drama about the 1980 Gwangju Massacre.

Both titles arrived after three months of domination by Hollywood blockbusters that has eroded local films' market share to 41%, the lowest level since 2001.

Now, analysts say the pair of hot local titles could help restore filmmakers' confidence in South Korea, the world's fifth-largest movie market by theatrical revenue.

"It's exciting -- more than I expected," said Young Choi, a senior analyst at Mirae Asset Securities. He credits strong marketing by Showbox for the opening, which had to overcome mixed reviews.

"Showbox is a strong distributor," Choi said. "They used lots of ads in the media, pushing the very advanced computer graphics along with some nationalism. It was good marketing."

"D-War's" opening far exceeded Showbox's expectations, and the company now predicts as many as 2.5 million admissions by the end of Sunday.

Showbox has more than a little experience with big-budget monster films, having released record-breaking creature feature "The Host" almost exactly one year ago.

"D-War" is by far the most expensive Korean movie ever made, officially budgeted at $32 million. Unofficially, money spent by production company Younggu Art to develop the CGI technology used to make the monsters come to life, reportedly pushed the actual cost of making "D-War" to at least $75 million.

"D-War" is slated for a Sept. 14 opening in the U.S. on about 1,500 screens, the biggest-ever U.S. release for a Korean movie.

Meanwhile, last week's big opener, "May 18," based on the true story of the killing of anti-government protesters in 1980, continued its strong run, topping 2.1 million admissions Wednesday. It had 1.44 million admissions during its July 25-29 opening.