The Korean film industry is expected to set a new record as another domestic movie is about to hit the 10 million-viewer mark following "The Thieves," which achieved the feat early this month.
From its release on Sept. 13 until Saturday, "Masquerade" directed by Choo Chang-min drew a total of 9 million moviegoers and has been attracting over 130,000 spectators a day on average. Thus, it is likely to hit the 10 million mark as early as this weekend, becoming the second film to achieve the feat this year and the seventh among all domestic movies.
Korean films have enjoyed something of a renaissance this year, making the strongest showing in terms of theater occupancy and ticket sales in the last five years. According to the Korean Film Council, as of Saturday, domestic films accounted for 57.6 percent of all films released here, up 5 percentage points from last year and a great increase from 2008 to 2010, when they drew less than half of all moviegoers.
With about two months of the year remaining, Korean films have already drawn 4.3 million more moviegoers than last year, and 14 million more than in 2008.
Film critics attributed the growing popularity of Korean movies to a change in viewing patterns. Koreans used to flock to the movies in peak seasons, such as summer or winter holidays, and mostly favored popular or big-budget films. However, their tastes have since diversified and going to the cinema has become a common leisure activity all year round.
Whereas previous hits like "The King and the Clown," "Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War," "Silmido," "Haeundae," and "The Host" -- all of which drew 10 million moviegoers -- were released during the summer or winter holiday, "Masquerade" proved a hit even though it was released in September.
The industry attributes the revitalization of Korean movies to their integration of elements taken from Hollywood genres but tailored to local tastes. It also cites diversified genres and a wider spectrum of age groups among audiences.
At this pace, Korean movies are expected to draw a total of 100 million viewers this year, the council speculates. If that happens, moviegoers will have watched 2.73 Korean films on average, compared to 1.78 films five years ago.