Melodramas Vanish from Korean Movie Theaters

  • By Park Don-kyoo

    January 28, 2023 08:19

    The melodramas and even romantic comedies that used to be a Korean staple across Asia are getting difficult to find in movie theaters here.
    According to the Korean Film Council, the only melodrama that made it on to the top 30 box office hits in 2022 was "Decision to Leave" starring Tang Wei and Park Hae-il, which ranked 17th with 1.89 million viewers. But even that movie was not a traditional melodrama.
    Movie critics are saying that the genre itself appears to be on its way out.
    The 2012 hit "Architecture 101" pulled 4.11 million viewers, but no other melodrama since then has left a mark in Korean cinemas. "Nothing Serious" starring Son Seok-ku and Jeon Jong-seo, attracted only 600,000 viewers in 2021.
    In the 1980s, tearjerkers like "Our Sweet Days of Youth" were hugely popular, followed by "Christmas in August" in the 1990s and "My Sassy Girl" in the 2000s.
    The situation is different in Japan. "If This Love Disappears from the World Tonight" was hugely popular among women of all ages there late last year and attracted 890,000 viewers.
    Stills from "Decision to Leave" (top) and "Architecture 101"
    Yet demand still exists for the genre. It is only that viewing habits have changed.
    Won Dong-yeon, a producer with Realies Pictures, said, "Melodramas were usually targeting average audiences between 2 and 3 million viewers, but it has become difficult to break even after lockdown was lifted."
    Audiences now wait until melodramas hit streaming services. Since most of them are housewives, they watch them in the daytime. That means many melodramas do never even hit theaters unless they win awards at international film festivals or have other outstanding artistic value.
    Film critic Jung Ji-wook said, "These days, even couples out on dates prefer action blockbusters. But think moviegoers in their 40s and 50s, who were responsible for the renaissance of the Korean film industry, are still eager for melodramas. Maybe production companies should pay attention and take a bolder approach."
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