South Korea Box Office: Local Action Movie 'Assassination' On Top, Becomes Biggest Film of 2015

'Assassination' (South Korea)

Release Date: July 2
Challenging: Terminator: Genisys

This lavish period crime drama set during the Japanese colonial period (1910-45), is the latest from director by Choi Dong-hoon, whose 2012 mega-blockbuster The Thieves took in $85 million at the global box office. The film has been pre-sold to 15 territories since debuting at the Cannes Film Market, and Well Go USA Entertainment will handle its North American release. 

The period film crossed the 10 million admissions milestone on 70th anniversary of South Korean independence.

Assassination finished second after another homespun actioner, Veteran, in the South Korean box office over the weekend of Aug. 14-16, but has beat the score of Avengers: Age of Ultron to become the top film of 2015 as well as one of the highest grossing titles in Korean cinema history. Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation maintained third place.

Seen by 10.79 million viewers as of Tuesday, Assassination tops Avengers: Age of Ultron, which had been this year's most-watched film with 10.49 million admissions. According to the Korean Film Council's KOBIS database, Assassination film took 20.6 percent of the market share over the weekend for a cumulative gross total of 82 billion won ($71 million). In financial terms, however, the Avengers sequel, which had been offered in various formats including the more expensive 3D, 4D and IMAX versions, remains the top grossing film with a cumulative estimate of $75 million.

Local industry observers nevertheless measure a film's box-office performance by admissions, and the Showbox/Mediaplex title became the 12th Korean film to attract about a fifth of Korea's population of 50 million. About independence fighters in action during Japan's occupation of Korea (1910-1945), the film coincidentally crossed 10 million admissions on Korea's 70th Independence Day that fell on Saturday. Hurtful memories of the colonial era remain ingrained among Koreans. Few non-Korean titles such as Avatar have managed to reach the milestone in a market generally dominated by local fare. Assassination has now become the 13th best film of all time in the Korean box office.

The crime actioner is the second film by Choi Dong-hoon to reach 10 million admissions after 2012's The Thieves. Choi is the second Korean director after J.K. Youn (HaeundaeOde to My Father) to have more than one 10-million admissions film under his belt. "This film has been a great challenge, and is a project that I've wanted to do for a long time," said Choi about the box-office breakthrough. "I am truly happy that I was able to have this meaningful connection with the audience."

Both of Choi's record-breaking films star an Ocean's 11-style cast of A-listers including Gianna Jun, Lee Jung-jae and Oh Dal-soo. Assassination is currently showing across select U.S. theaters via Well Go USA, and has been sold to 14 other territories around the world. Onlookers are especially looking forward to the film's opening in Chinese theaters in September, in time for the local commemoration of imperial Japan's surrender.

Meanwhile, Veteran continues to attract big audiences and accounted for 47.5 percent of the share during this time frame. The actioner distributed by CJ Entertainment topped the box office for the second consecutive week to amount to total earnings of about $46.1 million. Helmed by star director Ryu Seung-wan, the cat-and-mouse detective film has garnered close to 7 million admissions as of Tuesday.

The blockbuster success of Assassination and Veteran, meanwhile, has pushed down Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation down to third place for the second straight week. The market share of the Tom Cruise film, however, has almost halved from the week before down to 9.8 percent. But with a total gross of roughly $38 million, the Lotte Entertainment title has nevertheless proven to be the most successful among the five films in the franchise.

Minions, distributed by Universal Pictures International Korea, ranked fourth for the second consecutive week as it garnered 5.2 percent of viewers for a cumu $14 million. Megabox Plus M's local rom-com Wonderful Nightmare trailed close behind in fifth place, debuting with a market share of 5.1 percent. The gross total for the film starring Asian superstar Song Seung-hun comes down to $2.1 million as of Tuesday.