South Korea celebrates record year at box office


As the clock struck midnight and ushered in the New Year, Korean cinema found itself in the lucky position of being able to look back on an extremely satisfying 2013, with both theatres and studios reporting new records. The Korean Film Council, South Korea’s film industry governing body, announced that in 2013 an unprecedented 213.31 million tickets were sold, of which 127.27 million were for domestic productions alone. (2012 figures were 194.89 million and 114.61 million, respectively.) This development increased the total market share of homegrown movies to 59.7%, slightly up from 58.8% in the previous year.

Nine of the ten top-grossing movies in 2013 were Korean productions, surrendering only the number four spot to Hollywood’s Iron Man 3. Although it had only opened on Dec. 18, 2013, local courtroom drama The Attorney jumped to seventh place and thus managed to push zombie-themed foreign blockbuster World War Z off the list at the last moment. Surprisingly, two North Korean films, spy thrillers The Berlin File and Secretly Greatly, also made the chart, placing fifth and sixth, respectively. The number-one spot was taken by Miracle in Cell No. 7, which sold 12.81 million tickets and raked in 91.43 billion won ($87.06 million), effectively making it the third highest-grossing Korean movie of all time.

Animation Dominates 2013 Japan Box Office
Once again Japan’s audiences reaffirmed their undying fondness for animation as their ticket purchases helped five animated films secure spots in the 2013 top 10 list of highest-grossing movies. Domestic animated film The Wind Rises was ranked at number one with 11.6 billion yen ($110 million) in ticket sales, followed in second place by Disney/Pixar animated production Monsters University, which earned 8.96 billion yen ($85.3 million). With third spot also being taken by an animated feature, One Piece Film Z, the most successful live-action film of the year, Les Misérables, had to be content with fourth place, generating 5.93 billion yen ($56.5 million) at the box office. The commercially most lucrative domestic live-action production of the year was mystery drama Midsummer’s Equation, placing eighth by earning 3.31 billion yen ($31.5 million).

Feng Xiaogang Lambasts Criticism of Tailor
Just before year’s end, Chinese director Feng Xiaogang angrily took aim at local film critics for their negative reviews of his latest movie, Personal Tailor. For instance, the critic of the Beijing Daily newspaper described the satirical comedy as “reminiscent of a rough combination of strung-together TV comedy skits rather than anything that looks like a coherent film,” adding that it “doesn’t respect audiences” and was only produced to “make a quick buck.” Another reviewer writing under the pen name “Magasa” posted on his blog, “I watched it full of anger. How can [Feng] make such a film without being ashamed?”

The devastating reviews reportedly prompted Feng to release a barrage of stern rebukes on his personal micro-blog. Starting out with a self-rating of his film with the words, “As for [my] film’s integrity, I’d rate it at 5 out of 10, its entertainment value at 6 out of 10…but for its realism, I’d give it 9 out of 10,” he quickly proceeded to lash out at his critics by posting, “And I’d rate you at 3 out of 10. From [my previous film] Back to 1942 to Personal Tailor, your mockery carnival just reflects your shallow minds. I despise you… You are shameless.”

Defending Personal Tailor for its hidden messages of power abuse and corruption, he soon followed up with another blog post, saying, “I always try to push the envelope and touch taboos [in] China’s film industry. I did my duty. [But] you film critics, who always think so highly of yourselves, if [you think] I’m a joke, what are you?” Again aiming at critics, he continued in yet another post, “Take off your masks and expose yourselves as the ‘cultural fascists’ that you are.”

Shortly after his blog outbursts had finally subsided, Feng called a press conference, but offered no apology and instead declared he wasn’t afraid of offending film critics, would remain their “eternal nemesis” and also would keep fighting against any critic who couldn’t comprehend that Personal Tailor was meant as a satirical comedy. But ironically, Personal Tailor has done phenomenally well since its release on Dec. 20, earning 537 million yuan ($88.7 million) in its first 11 days and breaking both the previous opening day and opening weekend records in China. The movie also has turned out to be Feng’s commercially most successful by far. Personal Tailor tells the story of a private company that grants everyday people who want to break out of their ordinary lives for a day their most outrageous and extravagant wishes—for a price.

India’s Dhoom 3 Busts Overseas Records

Dhoom 3, India’s most expensive film ever, has broken the first-week records for a Bollywood production in all of its five most important overseas markets. The third movie in the extraordinarily successful franchise, Dhoom 3 at press time had reportedly earned $5.76 million in North America, $4.29 million in the United Arab Emirates, $2.49 million in the United Kingdom, $1.5 million in Australia, and $1.17 million in Pakistan, where it also beat out local production Waar for the largest opening-weekend gross in the country’s box-office history. Its tremendous overseas success has been attributed by industry observers partly to the fact that it was primarily shot on location in Chicago, Illinois. But Dhoom 3, which stars heartthrobs Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan, is also the very first domestic movie to have been released in IMAX format and at press time had already grossed an impressive $41 million at the local box office, which secured it an unchallenged top spot in India’s box-office chart since its opening on Dec. 20, 2013.

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