South Korean Box Office: Local Comedy 'Extreme Job' Becomes Biggest Film Ever

'Extreme Jobs' - H 2019
Courtesy of CJ Entertainment

The CJ Entertainment title has taken in a cume of $122.1 million, surpassing 2014's 'The Admiral: Roaring Currents.'

The South Korean comedy Extreme Job became the highest-grossing film of all time in the country over the weekend, having raked in a cumulative 137.7 billion Korean won ($122.1 million), according to the Korean Film Council's KOBIS database.

The film topped the charts for four straight weeks after opening Jan. 23. Though the pic dropped from No. 2 to No. 4 over the weekend, it continues to perform strongly. For example, it accounted for a 15 percent box office market share over the most recent frame.

The CJ Entertainment title's score surpasses that of 2014's The Admiral: Roaring Currents, a historical epic that had been the biggest local film in the Asian country with a cumulative gross of about $120 million. Also handled by CJ, The Admiral continues to hold South Korea's highest attendance record with 17.6 million admissions, compared with 16.0 million currently for Extreme Job. Local industry watchers typically measure box office performance in terms of admissions in the country, which has a population of just over 50 million.

Directed by Lee Byung-heon, Extreme Job focuses on narcotics detectives who go undercover in a fried chicken joint to crack down on a crime ring. Things take an unexpected turn, however, when the rundown restaurant turns into the hottest eatery in town.

Last year, comedies such as Perfect Stranger and On Your Wedding Day did very well in South Korea, and the success of Extreme Job trumps the convention that blockbusters have to be big-budget period movies with a serious message, film critic Yoon Sung-eun tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Recent trends suggest that the general public prefer light entertainment compared to heavy dramas," she says.

Yoon also notes that the film breaks away from the signature formulas that had worked for local comedies in the past. "Before, comedies were expected to have a surprise plot twist with elements of touching drama or romance," she explains. "Extreme Job doesn't bend genres, but showcases a diverse style within the comedy genre ranging from slapstick to B-movie humor."

Adds the critic: "Most important, the movie's success lies in its script full of witty dialogue, as well as the message that any job, such as running a chicken joint, can be a worthwhile and challenging endeavor. This seems to have resonated strongly with the general public."

Meanwhile, other domestic titles led the South Korean box office over the weekend. At No. 1 was the biopic A Resistance, starring Snowpiercer actress Ko Asung as Yu Gwan-sun, a national hero who led the March 1, 1919, independence movement during the Japanese occupation period (1910-45). Friday was a national holiday marking the 100th anniversary of the protests. The Lotte Entertainment title enjoyed a promising debut, raking in a total of $5.6 million with 26.7 percent of the market revenue.

Coming in at No. 2 was Svaha: The Sixth Finger. Distributed by CJ, the occult mystery thriller dropped from its top spot last week, but took home 21.9 percent of the market share for a cume of $15.8 million. Finishing third was the legal drama Innocent Witness. Another Lotte title, the film starring popular actor Jung Woo-sung accounted for 16.9 percent of the box office share for a total of $16.3 million. Another Japanese colonial-era film, Race to Freedom: Um Bok Dong (aka Uhm Bok-dong, Bicycle King), landed at No. 5 with 3.5 percent of the share for a cume of $1 million.