Last year saw a renaissance of Korean film, and romantic movies were at the forefront. The genre saw its domestic box-office record renewed three times in 2012 alone.
Released in March, "Architecture 101" attracted 4.11 million viewers to become the most popular movie in the history of the genre here. But the record was soon broken by the 4.59 million who watched "All About My Wife," which hit cinemas two months later. Now "A Werewolf Boy" has already set another record, with 7.06 million viewers between its release in October and this Monday.
The trend continues, with "Love 911" luring 2.25 million viewers so far since its release last month.
The genre was immensely popular from the 1970s until it lost appeal in the mid-2000s. What are the reasons behind the resurgence?
◆ Strong Female Characters
Recent hit romantic movies all feature strong female characters. Women became more active in relationships, while most of the male characters are timid in the presence of women.
Film critic Kang Yu-jung says the fate of women in romantic movies has traditionally depended on men, but now the roles are often reversed, reflecting a change in social realities.
◆ More Mature Audiences
"Love Fiction," which drew 1.72 million viewers last year, portrayed a couple in their 30s, and "All About My Wife" a married couple in their mid-30s. "Architecture 101" is a love story between college freshmen but set in the year 1996. All therefore appealed to 30-somethings who went to college back then.
The lead characters of "A Werewolf Boy" are in their teens, but oddly enough the largest group of the viewers was 30-somethings, followed by those in their 40s or over, according to Kim Hyung-ho of film site Max Movie said. "The movie is particularly popular among women in their 30s," he added.
The Korean film industry used to focus on viewers in their teens or 20s, film critic Jeon Chan-il said, but is now expanding its scope to appeal to a more mature audience.
◆ More Realistic Love Stories
"Love Fiction" and "All About My Wife" got a good response with their realistic portrayal of conflict between couples and of the seven-year itch.
Shim Jae-myung, the producer of "Architecture 101," said that as the audience lost interest in tearjerkers, the film industry had to find a new way to appeal to them. Also, movies now tell stories in a more realistic way to distinguish themselves from TV soap operas.