'The King and the Clown' Draws 10 Million Viewers

Some 9.78 million people had watched the hit film "The King and the Clown" as of Thursday, the film's distributor Cinema Service said Friday. It predicted ticket sales will reach the 10 million mark around Saturday afternoon, 45 days after its release.

That means one in four Koreans and almost half of all adults saw the film, which is estimated to have generated some W500 billion (US$500 million) in economic effects.

The milestone also puts the movie ahead of blockbusters like "Silmido" or "Taegukgi." The former cost W8.2 billion and the latter W14.7 billion, while "The King" had a budget of a mere W4 billion, made do without a top-rated cast or director, and circles what remains a taboo theme in Korea -- homosexuality.

In an encouraging sign, the film does not rely on the nationalistic sentiment that fostered a subtle sense of tension in many hit films including "Swiri", "Silmido" and "Taegukgi" with their Hollywood-style appeal to patriotism. "The King" is basically a historical drama set in the royal palace, incorporating traditional percussion and folk performance, but finds its own unique style, not least in its imaginative and symbolic use of color.

That many viewers saw the film more than once shows that a well-produced film with a solid storyline can succeed even without a star-studded cast and huge production costs. "The King" is also testimony to a shrewd marketing campaign. As W15-billion blockbusters flop at the box office and the industry is up in arms over the reduction of the screen quota reserved for domestic films in the theaters, the success of "The King and the Clown" is all the more remarkable.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 10, 2006 18:55 KST