South Korea Box Office: ‘Veteran’ Becomes Phenomenon as Local Films Dominate

CJ Entertainment

The Korean action film cross 10 million admissions and trails close behind 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' as 2015’s third highest grossing film.

South Korean action film Veteran topped the local box office for the fourth consecutive week from Aug. 28-30 to become one of the most-watched films in Korean cinema history, while other domestic titles dominated the ranks.

Veteran took a 42.9 percent share of the market during the weekend according to the Korea Film Council’s KOBIS database. On Saturday, it crossed 10 million admissions to become one of Korea’s top films of all time. Local industry observers measure a film’s box-office performance in terms of admissions, and just 17 films have managed to attract 10 million viewers or about a fifth of Korea’s population.

With 10.8 million admissions as of Monday, Veteran is the second title by CJ Entertainment to cross the box-office milestone this year since Ode to My Father in January. Both films star actor Hwang Jung-min. In financial terms, Veteran has grossed about $72 million to become the third best film of 2015, after the local period film Assassination and Avengers: Age of Ultron, respectively. In terms of admissions, it ranks second.

Helmed by star auteur Ryu Seung-wan, Veteran follows the cat-and-mouse chase between a detective and a corrupt businessman, and will be getting its international premiere at Toronto International Film Festival next month.

“The film embodies Ryu Seung-wan’s style as a writer-director, with humorous dialog and social commentaries,” said film critic Jeong Ji-ouk, who also notes that the film crossed 10 million admissions just two weeks after Assassination, about independence fighters during the Japanese colonial era. “Both films are about justice, and I think the moral questions they pose really appealed to the Korean audience who are very sensitive about such issues. In a way the two films were in a win-win situation.”

Jeong, however, also emphasized the dark side of the two films’ success, attributing it to how they are both handled by Korea’s top investor-distributors that also own the biggest cinema chains. “The top three box-office hits take up about three-quarters of the screens across the country. This doesn’t give audiences much of a choice. Both films were very well-made films in and of themselves, but we also need to take this unfair market structure into consideration.”

Meanwhile, The Beauty Inside, handled by Next Entertainment World (NEW), ranked second in the weekend box office for the second week. Accounting for 16 percent of sales during this period, the film has so far grossed a total $9.23 million. Assassination also maintained its No. 3 spot from the week before, garnering 13.5 percent of the revenue for a cumulative $80 million.

A string of other Korean titles followed in the ranks.

Untouchable Lawmen, handled by Pancinema, debuted at fourth place with 7.7 percent of the market share. The action-packed comedy about hardball detectives earned a total $1.7 million during its first weekend in theaters. The rom-com A Wonderful Nightmare stepped up one spot to take fifth place with 4.8 percent of the revenue. Cumu earnings for the Megabox Plus M film comes down to $5.4 million.