Scalpers Appear as 'Interstellar' Becomes Phenomenon in South Korea

Interstellar Art - H 2014

Interstellar Art - H 2014

IMAX tickets are sold out for weeks as tech-savvy Koreans scramble to see the sci-fi epic

The Interstellar craze in South Korea has reached new heights with the emergence of ticket scalpers at local cinemas.

The Christopher Nolan film has garnered over $40 million as of Thursday, making the tiny Asian country the third-biggest market for the film following the U.S. and China.

The space drama has topped the charts for advance online reservations for tickets for the fourth consecutive week. This weekend, over 280,000 moviegoers are set to watch Interstellar according to the Korean Film Council's KOBIS database. This makes up 68.1 percent of all advance reservations; Fury, for which Brad Pitt recently toured Seoul, accounted for just 7.3 percent.

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The sci-fi epic has earned a reputation as a film that just has to be seen in theaters, moreover on the IMAX screen. "There has been an unusually high demand to watch this space sci-fi film that cost $165 million," said Kim Tae-joo of All That Cinema, Interstellar's local PR agency.

Most of the IMAX screenings this weekend at CGV Yongsan, one of Seoul's largest theaters, are sold out. Only a handful seats are available for the early morning showings between 2-7 a.m. (Korea has 24-hour cinemas) as of Friday at noon.

Ticket scalpers have emerged at key Seoul theaters for the explosively popular IMAX format, with the $10-dollar tickets selling for as much as $40. CGV, the country's largest cinema chain, recently published a statement urging moviegoers from taking part in such illegal transactions.

"I know it's not really legal, but I paid 20,000 won [about $20] per ticket because my girlfriend really wanted to see the film," said a 31-year-old male film fan in Seoul. "It was mind-blowing. We felt inspired to learn more about some of the physics theories that were featured in the film, and we are thinking of watching it again. But without having to buy scalped tickets, of course."

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Positive reviews of the film handled by Warner Brothers Korea have spread through both word-of-mouth, but mostly notably through social media platforms in the world's most wired country.

With the highest Internet and smartphone penetrations in the world, Korea has held a reputation for being tech-savvy and the technology-heavy nature of Interstellar has struck a chord. "As reflected by Korea's fast IT culture or the widespread use of [social network services], Korean audiences seem to have a strong intellectual curiosity about high technology," said film critic Kang Yu-jung.

Film critic Jeong Ji-ouk also pointed out that the strong fatherly affection and concern for future generations portrayed by Matthew McConaughey are resonating with the local Confucian values — "unlike many Hollywood films that are centered on hero worship."

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