'Running Boy' This Holiday's Runaway Box Office Hit

Who made the top of the box office this lunar New Year is a hot topic in the movie world. The official tally has yet to come out, but numbers released by individual film companies suggest "Running Boy," staring Cho Seung-woo, is leaving all others behind.

The film, which premiered on Jan. 27 and climbed to No. 2 on its first weekend, blew past its competitors over the holiday. It drew 167,000 moviegoers in Seoul during the holiday, and 595,000 nationwide. In total, it has attracted 737,000 viewers in Seoul and 2.36 million nationwide.

As the hero is disabled, "Running Boy," which deals with Bae Hyeong-jin and the Chuncheon Marathon, was an unlikely success story. But word of mouth appears to have helped propel the film into record figures, with viewers gripped by the moving drama of an autistic man who uses the marathon to score a victory for the human spirit.

Among the film's many strong points is a powerful story that conveys the subtleties of the internal conflict suffered by Bae's mother, besides solid production values, fine acting by Cho Seung-woo and Kim Mi-sook, and an impressive realism, with the film shot on location at the site of last year's Chuncheon Marathon. The film was unique in attracting moviegoers of all ages, from preschool children to the elderly -- not unlike the 2002 film "The Way Home," which drew over 4 million viewers.

Seok Myeong-hong, president of "Running Boy" production company Cineline2, said many parents were taking young children to see the film, and mothers and fathers had left over 1,500 messages on the film's webpage praising the picture. "I saw the film five times in five days," one message read, while another said, "The movie made my daughter cry."

Kang Woo-seok's "Public Enemy 2" has drawn 800,000 views in Seoul and 2.7 million nationwide, with the 3 million mark within sight. The fastest starter was the Keanu Reaves film "Constantine." An action film that appears to meld elements of "The Matrix" and "The Mummy," the movie drew 185,000 filmgoers in Seoul since it debuted on Feb. 8, taking first place. Nationwide, it has attracted 524,000 viewers and ranks third.

The film's impressive showing is due to Reaves' popularity and the fact that the film debuted during the holiday break. Fourth and fifth place were taken by Lee Dong-gun's new film, "My Boyfriend Is Type-B," marginally ahead of the controversial "President's Last Bang," based on the assassination of President Park Chung-hee.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 13, 2005 17:45 KST