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Hollywood Sequels Take Over Korean Screens

2007/06/19 Source

A much-reduced screen quota for Korean movies and a lackluster time for domestic works is allowing a bevy of Hollywood sequels to slug it out among themselves on Korean screens.

First up was "Spider-Man 3", which opened on May 1, three days ahead of the U.S. release. Some 502,000 viewers saw the movie on the opening day alone. By the first week of June, the oddly hyphenated tale of the arachnid superhero's confrontation with his own darker side had drawn 4.91 million viewers here.

"Spider-Man 3" handed the sticky baton to "Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End", also the third in the franchise, which opened May 23. It drew some 1.09 million viewers in just two days -- 308,000 on the opening day and 789,000 the next ? and breaking the record of 1.08 million set by domestic blockbuster "The Host".

In "Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End", Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom's Will Turner and Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann engage in another rip-roaring sea adventure, joining forces with Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) against supernatural warriors led by legendary squid-face Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). The Singaporean pirate Captain Sao Feng also joins the hokum. By casting the Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-Fat as Sao Feng, the movie clearly has one eye cocked on Asian markets.

Despite the epic running time of two hours and 48 minutes, "Pirates" had drawn 3.88 million Korean viewers by early June.

The third sequel was the animated "Shrek The Third", which opened on June 6 and set yet another record by drawing 620,000 audiences on opening day. On June 14, it was followed by another third, "Ocean's Thirteen", and a belated fourth, "Live Free or Die Hard", is due on June 28. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", already the fifth of its franchise, will open on July 12.

The received wisdom is that sequels fare less well than the original, but every last one of the Hollywood sequels has subverted that belief. Of course, lack of creative ideas and new materials plays a part, but sound business sense clearly comes first.

If it weren't for "Secret Sunshine", a different kind of movie altogether, there would be little to salvage the honor of Korean film. Jeon Do-yeon, who won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance in the film, ensured audience figures of over 1 million here. The movie's profound and understated exploration of existential issues is light years apart from the big-budget extravaganzas from across the pond.

Among Korean films, "Hwang Jin Yi" starring Song Hye-kyo opened June 6, and the mystery thriller "Black House" starring Hwang Jung-min will open June 21. "Remember U 518" is a Korean blockbuster about the May 18, 1980 Democratic Movement for a budget of a cool W10 billion (US$1=W938) . It opens on July 26. Whether it can reclaim top billion for homegrown movies remains to be seen.

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