There seems to be no stopping South Korean epic Roaring Currents as it rides high in the home box office. Less than a week since becoming the top film of 2014, it has topped Avatar to become the most-watched film of all time in Korea.
Close to 15 million Koreans, out of the country’s total population of 50 million, have seen Roaring Currents as of Monday, according to the Korean Film Council’s KOBIS. Korean offices use admissions as their primary measure. On Saturday, after only 18 days in theaters, the historic film overtook the long-standing score held by Avatar, which drew 13.62 million admissions and had remained the top film in Korea for the past four years.
The James Cameron film took more than 40 days to cross 10 million admissions back in 2009-2010, whereas Roaring Currents took only 12 days to reach the milestone last week. No film has sailed through the Korean box office at such breathtaking speed. Only 10 films — all local titles except for Avatar and Frozen — have brought in 10 million admissions.
The actioner starring Lucy star Choi Min-sik also is the first Korean picture to gross more than $100 million in the local box office. The $18.6 million film has banked $110.54 million so far. Avatar, having been offered in various formats including the more expensive 3D, 4DX and IMAX versions, remains the highest grossing film here at $122 million, followed by local films The Thieves ($91 million) and Miracle in Cell No. 7 ($89.44 million)
The film, about a historic 16th century naval battle in which 12 Koreans ships defeat Japan’s fleet of more than 300, has proved particularly popular over the past long weekend. It drew more than 742,000 admissions — or some 70 percent of the market alone — on Friday, Aug. 15, Independence Day, a timely national holiday that fetes Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945).
Meanwhile, though eclipsed by Roaring Currents, two other Korean films set in the high seas have been performing well.
The Pirates, which recently sold to 14 countries across the Caribbean following successful presales at the Cannes Film Market, broke 4.29 million admissions and defends second place in the box office. Haemoo, which will receive a gala presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival, debuted at third place, and has drawn close to one million admissions in spite of being rated R.