Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: December 2007

Korea Weekend Box Office – Dec. 14-16

Some strange goings-on with the top-10 this week. When KOBIS published the weekend numbers on Monday morning, they were obviously really low. I AM LEGEND, for example, was listed as doing about half of what its true business was. Turns out that there were some computer problems and a bunch of theaters had not reported their weekend business.

Apparently the Monday KOBIS numbers are always preliminary, and final figures are not confirmed until Tuesday. I did not know that. I hope I have not posted any wrong box office figures here in past weeks.

Anyhow, big weekend for Will Smith’s I AM LEGEND. Kind of funny, considering how no one I know who saw the film liked it. Score one for Warner Bros’ marketing team. LEGEND had $6.5 million, including its early Wednesday opening (true weekend numbers were closer to $5 million).

I was surprised LEGEND outperformed both SEX IS ZERO 2 and THE FIGHT. Was sure at least one of those would be a breakout hit. As it turns out, SEX IS ZERO 2 was the big Korean film over the weekend… a fact I find endlessly distressing. No, I have not seen it yet, but the original SEX IS ZERO was such a miserable film, I am disappointed people went back for more punishment.

THE FIGHT opened only in fourth, which had to have been disappointing to its distributor. It felt like I have seen ads for this film every five minutes on TV here. (SEX IS ZERO 2, on the other hand, was pretty much invisible, at least on the channels I watch).

Kind of cool to see KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE in the top ten, especially since that movie was released a few weeks ago. Are all of Hayao Miyazaki’s old films going to be periodically rereleased in Korean theaters, like Disney’s film used to be when I was growing up? It would be cool is young people had the opportunity to see his films in the theater.

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance Total Attendance
1. I Am Legend 12.12 486 678,619 918,396
2. Sex Is Zero 2 (Saekjeuk Sigong Sijeun 2 – Korean) 12.12 440 439,031 584,284
3. August Rush 11.29 314 239,645 1,336,512
4. The Fight (Ssaum – Korean) 12.13 396 164,750 236,328
5. Seven Days (Korean) 11.14 243 97,629 1,932,717
6. Lust, Caution 11.08 200 69,467 1,821,731
7. Hairspray 12.06 215 56,117 294,936
8. Le Grand Chef (Sikkaek – Korean) 11.01 115 25,057 2,969,549
9. Kiki’s Delivery Service 11.22 38 7,500 23,716
10. My Eleventh Mother (Yeolhanbeonjjae Eomma – Korean) 11.29 46 6,275 333,337

(Source: KOBIS – Figures represent 97% of nationwide box office)

Running Down a Dream (Cinema)

My ever-so-cool colleague Chun Sujin just wrote a feature about the end of Dream Cinema, the last non-multiplex theater in Seoul. Dream Cinema is an ugly concrete box, with fading paint, broken seats and a dubious sound system (at the best of times). But when it was opened in 1964, it was one of the fancier cinemas in the city, like the Daehan or Picadilly.


Very much worth a read, especially since I can still remember a time before there were any multiplexes in Korea. Amazing how fast things change.

Writing this makes me remember the last time I went to the Dream Cinema to watch a film. It was the first Korean press screening for LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. The sound system was in worse shape than usual that day, and about 20 minutes into the film the sound went out entirely. I had to wait another couple of days until the next press screening to see the movie. As I was dying to see FELLOWSHIP (geek that I am), I was pretty bitter about that.

And if you want to check out the Dream Cinema, it will stay open until January or so. To commemorate the theater and its closing, the manager booked DIRTY DANCING, which has turned into something of a surprise hit (and tickets are just half-price, compared to other theaters).

Dream Cinema is located in Seodaemun, right by the Seodaemun Subway Station on line No. 5.

SSS – XXX

Andrei Lankov has a great (if short) essay about the classic Korean “ero” film MADAME AEMA at the Korea Times (here). Totally worth a read.

If you like that sort of thing, you can read a short essay about the 3S policy in KOFIC’s KOREAN CINEMA book (which you can download for free here (yeah, there is a more normal link at www.koreanfilm.or.kr, but it does not seem to work with Mac computers, so I linked to Google’s html cache instead. If you use PC, though, you can see the article here ).

If you are interested in urban history or more of the sports side of the 3S policy, there is a very interesting article about Seoul’s urban policy and the 1988 Olympics here.

Now if someone would only write such an essay about PPONG


Hey! Great collection of posters and stills of PPONG at the Korean Movie Database. Nifty.

Korea Weekend Box Office – Dec. 7-9

Score one for parity this week, as no one movie occupied over 300 screens. I cannot remember the last time that happened. All the movies in the top-10 this weekend were on between 276 and 98 screens.

Actually, now that I think about it, last weekend was pretty even, too, as all the movies occupied between 321 and 160 screens.

Anyhow, the biggest film, yet again (and rather mysteriously) was AUGUST RUSH. That is about $1.8 million over the weekend for a total of $5.7 million. Once again, a movie doing better in its second weekend than in its first. What an odd trend this fall.

But does anyone really want to see that film? It could make a more cynical person think that CJ was “encouraging” all its employees (and their family and friends) to see the film. How very lucky for me that I’m not cynical.

FYI, AUGUST RUSH has made a little over $25 million in the United States. Plus $1.4 million in the UK and $600,000 in Italy.

SEVEN DAYS continues to do fairly well — about $1.2 million over the weekend for a total of around $12 million.

HAIRSPRAY was the biggest debut this week. But John Travolta is no Devine.

LUST CAUTION also continues its remarkable Korean run, with another $720,000 or so, bringing its total box office to about $12 million.

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance Total Attendance
1. August Rush 11.29 276 254,767 826,241
2. Seven Days (Korean) 11.14 265 167,030 1,670,485
3. Hairspray 12.06 218 107,219 133,286
4. Lust, Caution 11.08 220 104,490 1,628,512
5. Le Grand Chef 11.01 260 91,577 2,866,683
6. Our Town (Uri Dongne – Korean) 11.29 228 58,249 311,285
7. My Eleventh Mother (Yeolhanbeonjjae Eomma – Korean) 11.29 224 57,151 279,598
8. Death Sentence 12.06 122 36,434 44,607
9. Hitman 11.29 147 23,920 143,173
10. Beowulf 11.14 98 17,698 957,057

(Source: KOBIS – Figures represent 97% of nationwide box office)

A pretty big movie weekend on its way, with SEX IS ZERO 2 and VENUS AND MARS (or “The Fight,” “Ssaum,” in Korea) both opening.

Hey, the SPEED RACER trailer.

‘Pop Goes Korea’ Gets a Cover (Let the Judging Begin)

Work on POP GOES KOREA continues, step by step. Whenever I think I have my work done, my lovely editor likes to think up more things to change or add or whatever. Slowly, however, we are getting the book into shape.

Now, the book is not going to hit store shelves until around June-ish, but I do have the cover already. And I guess this is as good a time as any to present it to the world. So, ladies and gentlemen, here is POP GOES KOREA:


Pretty spiffy, no? Kind of a Roy Lichtenstein look going on there, with the color saturation turned way up. Very eye-catching.

In fact, there is even a page for my book over at Amazon.com. I am a little embarrassed to admit that it feels really good to see my work turning up online already. Feels like I have accomplished something semi-substantial for once.

Now, if I can just make sure that the writing is not terrible…

Add Four Your Music Collection

I was rummaging through a local music shop a couple of days ago and what did I find? Why Shin Joong-hyun’s very first album, when he was in the band ADD 4 (actually “Edeu Hwo,” in the transcribed Korean), from the album called BISOK-UI YEOIN. Pony Canyon was nice enough to reissue the CD just a few weeks ago.


The songs are quite interesting. Not nearly as “psychedelic” as the Shin Joong-hyun’s post-Pearl Sisters stuff. Must more of a pre-Beatles sound (as you would expect in a record coming out in the early 1960s).

Most interesting to me, though, is how many of the songs on this album would turn up later. Including the huge hit of 1968, ONE CUP OF COFFEE (“Keopi Hanjan”), although on this album it bears the name NAESOGEUL TAEUNEUN GURYEO. BADATGA also turned up on a Key Boys album, and Seo Yun-seok would sing SOYA EOSEO GAJA.

Anyhow, it is a piece of history and well worth picking up.

Have I mentioned the Shin Joong-hyun box set that is on the way? If not, I should write about that soon.

Korea Weekend Box Office – Nov. 30-Dec. 2

Not a very exciting box office this week. Although I was rather surprised to see the top spot go to AUGUST RUSH, an odd-looking melodrama out of Hollywood in which CJ Entertainment invested. I guess I was watching the wrong TV channels because I did not see a No. 1 opening coming at all. If I were a better blogger, I would check out Cine 21 or some other movie website to see what kind of feedback the film was getting from audiences… but I’m not, so I won’t.

In case you are curious, RUSH’s box office was about $1.7 million over the weekend, for a total of around $2.1 million.

Just to show how off-based my thinking was, if I were to have guessed from advertising and general stories, I might have predicted a big opening for MY ELEVENTH MOTHER. But it opened only in sixth. Even OUR TOWN opened better.

SEVEN DAYS is continuing to do fairly well, landing in No. 2 this weekend.

Rather amazingly, LUST CAUTION is still in third, after four weeks. Ang Lee’s sexy film just keeps on chugging here in Korea, having earned a little over $10 million. Not bad considering it has made just $4.3 million in the United States (since September). In case you are interested, LUST’s top territory so far has been China, where it has made $15 million, with $6 million in Hong Kong and $4 million in Taiwan.

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance Total Attendance
1. August Rush 11.29 321 242,879 301,625
2. Seven Days (Korean) 11.14 307 220,615 1,284,500
3. Lust, Caution 11.08 258 136,383 1,359,072
4. Le Grand Chef (Sikkaek – Korean 11.01 321 122,490 2,662,777
5. Our Town (Uri Dongne – Korean) 11.29 276 117,008 147,873
6. My Eleventh Mother (Yeolhanbeonjjae Eomma – Korean) 11.29 260 89,516 129,503
7. Hitman 11.29 173 56,841 68,396
8. Beowulf 11.14 221 40,019 911,148
9. Michael Clayton 11.29 160 38,190 51,825
10. Saw 4 11.22 200 18,571 238,051

(Source: KOBIS – Figures represent 97% of nationwide box office)

Oh, last week I forgot to mention the John Cho film WEST 32ND, which opened Nov. 22. But not really my fault, since the film was on just 22 screens and never even approached the top 10. It opened in 17th, then dropped to 25th this week, for a grant total of about $54,000. Despite some decent talent being attached to the film (including Grace Park in a small role), the movie was remarkably dull… You are not missing a hidden gem.

Weekend Concerts

Sorry this post is late. Meant to write it on Wednesday or so but got distracted.

Anyhow, we are now in December, and like most Decembers in Korea, there are a whole bunch of interesting live shows going on. Linkin Park was last night, for example.

Today we have a couple of noteworthy shows. Down in Chungmuro (in the subway station, of all places) at 6pm there is the Never Right Show, with a bunch of fun bands (you can see them listed in the ad below).


And then in Shinchon at 8pm, everybody’s favorite Japanese rocker Sato Yukie is having an acoustic show at Yardbirds.

Next Saturday, the experimental techno folks at Relay will be having a show at Club Hong… which is close to Rolling Hall, on the south side of Hongdae. Show is around 8pm (before the all-night techno fest, I guess).

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