Sept 25, 2006

This year’s Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving holiday will be the longest ever since it comes right after the Foundation Day holiday. Theaters will not miss this golden opportunity to draw as many viewers as possible by showing the best movies. Competition will be fiercer than ever.

How Many Will Come?

Most film distributors estimate that they will draw some 10-12 million viewers for the 11 days from Sept. 28 until Oct. 8 when a host of interesting movies are released. Although the period accounts for 3 percent of total screening days, the number of viewers during the period will take up 7.5 percent of the estimated total of 160 million viewers for the year. Last year, 3.9 million viewers came to theaters for the five-day holiday. The film industry expects that the unprecedented number of quality movies to be released will be another force drawing viewers. Given that most viewers usually come out on the day after Chuseok, this year the number should reach its peak on Oct. 7 with some 1.5 million. Kim Tae-seong with distributor Showbox said, "Usually, most people have watched on average one movie during the holiday, but since we have the longest holiday and more good movies are to be released this year, they will be willing to see two or three."

What Are the Odds?

The problem is that however large the market is, not every seller will be happy. The Chosun Ilbo asked seven film producers/distributors who are to release movies for the Chuseok holiday — besides these, there will be eight foreign movies — how many viewers they think can draw during the holiday assuming that some 10 million people will come to the theaters. Their combined estimates were 16 million, which was 60 percent larger than the available pie. In addition, the break-even point of these movies is 1.74 million, but since it is expected that the number of viewers drawn during the Chuseok holiday will account for most of the total, few of them will make big profits.

Who Will Have the Last Laugh?

Unlike other years, no movies are expected to be massive hits during Chuseok this year. Kwak Shin-ae with LJ Film explains that the genres of the movies are all different, which means the target audiences are also different, while many films are good enough to appeal to viewers. At first, it seemed that gangster comedy "Marrying the Mafia 3: The Rebirth of Family" would compete for the top spot with "War of Flower" based on the hit comic book of the same title by Huh Young-man. But "Radio Star" by Lee Joon-ik, who directed this year’s mega hit "The King and the Clown," has had a good response on the grapevine since its preview, and musical horror comedy "Fox Family" and "Our Happy Time" based on the novel of the same title are also considered quite well made.

By contrast, there will be only a few foreign movies worth watching during the holiday. The pick of the bunch are "Rob-B-Hood, Project BB" starring Jackie Chan — his movies are a Korean holiday favorite — period drama "The Night Banquet" starring Zhang Ziyi and animation "The Ant Bully." This is because Hollywood distributors are reluctant to compete with Korean movies to be released for the holiday.

"With no Hollywood blockbusters to be released, I think Korean movies will sweep the box office," says Jo Jang-rae with CJ Entertainment. "Some 80 percent of viewers will choose Korean movies." The industry expects that at least two Korean movies will be big successes by drawing more than 5 million viewers.