'The Hobbit' a Success in South Korea, Challenges Dominance of Homegrown Films

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Bilbo Surrounded by Hobbits - H 2012
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Bilbo Surrounded by Hobbits - H 2012

The fantasy film becomes the first import to top local box office in weeks while "A Werewolf Boy" breaks seven million admissions.

SEOUL – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey stood tall in the South Korean box office this weekend, marking a rare feat by a foreign film.

The Peter Jackson flick attracted one million moviegoers in just four days in the country where the Lord of the Ring series were highly successful. The new spin-off has already grossed more than 9.1 billion won ($8.366 million) due to higher ticket prices for 3-D and IMAX screenings.

This ends the long reign of Korean films atop the box office: in recent months, only two other non-Korean films, Skyfall and The Bourne Legacy, have managed to occupy the No. 1 slot – and each only once on their respective opening weekends. Market share for Korean movies is about 59 percent for the year, the highest in the past decade. Dominance by local titles was as high as 73 percent during the month of November when homespun hits like Masquerade and A Werewolf Boy defended the box office title for several weeks back-to-back.

STORY: 'Hobbit' Scores Record $84.8 Million Weekend

Ranking next in the box office were local political drama 26 Years, which occupied the No. 1 spot during the two previous weeks (2.5 million total admissions); the homegrown sex comedy Whatcha Wearin’? (1.2 million viewers total); and U.S. animation Rise of the Guardians (899,827 moviegoers total).

Coming in fifth was the director’s cut of A Werewolf Boy. The original by Jo Sung-hee has sold some 6.6 million tickets as of Monday and occupies the 13th place in the box office, while the alternate-ending version released Dec. 6 at the behest of fans boosted sales with an extra 372,000 admissions.

The combined scores of the two editions make Werewolf the 11th most-watched homespun film of all time in the country with more than seven million admissions. In addition to being the third-highest grossing film of 2012, Werewolf has also become the most popular local romance ever, having long beaten the admissions of 4.1 million held earlier this year by Architecture 101.

Werewolf, about a young teenage girl’s romance with a superhuman “wolf boy,” has been considered Korea’s answer to the Twilight movies. The latest installment of the latter, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, has sold the most tickets among the serial with more than 2.2 million. It currently ranks 11th in the box office.