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Ko - production in Busan
  • Is the Era of 10-million-admissions Opening for R-rated Movies?
  • by SONG Soon-jin /  Feb 11, 2016
  • R-rated Movie Market Expands with INSIDE MEN

    KWAK Kyung-taek‘s Friend (2001) has long been called a legend in the Korean R-rated film industry, being the biggest hit in this market, with 8.18 million admissions. However, this record has just been broken in 15 years. The new legend is Inside Men by WOO Min-ho.
    Released on November 19th last year, Inside Men has attracted a total of 7.07 million viewers. Also assisted by the director's cut, Inside Men: The Original which has sold 2.08 million tickets since its release on December 31st last year, Inside Men is about to become a 10-million-viewer title any minute now.
    Such great box office performance of Inside Men, a revenge drama against the corrupt leaders in politics, business and media, has significance in Korean cinema. This film was not afraid of revealing all its rather disturbing settings, and made a huge success without bending its content by editing or cutting out necessary parts to get a PG-13 rate. It is also meaningful that a crime drama has made a great success, not an erotic movie or an action flick.
    The success of Inside Men also owes to the constant expansion of the R-rated movie market, with films like NA Hong-jin’s The Chaser (2008), CHOI Dong-hoon’s Tazza: The High Rollers (2006), and PARK Hoon-jung’s New World (2013). For the last 5 years, some R-rated movies have made great success: Silenced (2011); Nameless Gangster : Rules of the Time (2012); New World; and Tazza-The Hidden Card (2014) are some of the examples.
    According to the Korean Film Council's box office tracking service, the number of admissions for R-rated movies between 2011 and 2015 has jumped from 2011's 4.66 million, to 10 million in 2013, which is more than a double just in 2 years, and to 18 million in 2015. (Total admissions for non-erotic, R-rated films of over 500,000 admissions; CGV Research Center's 2015 Admissions Trend Report) 
    R-rated Movies: from "It’s so cruel" to "It’s fun!"
    In such trend, several meaningful signs have appeared regarding the R-rated movies. One of them is the Korean Media Rating Board's final report on film rating in 2015. According to this report, R-rated movies accounted for 52% of all releases, which is 875 films out of 1,680. Among these, Korean movies were 191, which is 52% of the entire 367 Korean film products of the year. For foreign films, 684 out of 1,313 were R-rated. Box office hits include local movies Inside Men, Gangnam Blues, Coin Locker Girl, and The Treacherous, and foreign titles Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Fifty Shades of Grey.
    R-rated movies have not only grown up in terms of size but also of preference. At the CGV Film Industry Media Forum held on January 28th, LEE Seung-won (CGV Research Center Manager) referred to R-rated movies as a major audience trend in 2015. “Inside Men has made the all-time record in Net Promoter Score (NPS), measured based on the words of mouth,” said LEE.
    In the NPS, New World scored 17.7% with 4.68 million viewers; Kingsman: the Secret Service 26.8% with 6.12 million; and Inside Men 35.9%. "Not only online searches for R-rated movies have jumped, but also the images that SNS users would share about R-rated films have changed from negative terms like “cruel, scary, could do better” to positive terms such as “cruel, fun, fresh, stimulating"," explains LEE.
    In the past, a lot of viewers gave up on watching them or found them repulsive because of the cruel scenes, but last year, reactions from viewers were closer to “they are cruel, yet fun.”
    LEE analyzes that it is clearly the 20's who prefer films with sensational subject matter. "For them, R-rated movies are like hot and spicy snacks, with which they relieve stress," asserts LEE. In the research about CGV admissions for top 10 films in 2015, 42.2% and 47.5% of all audiences in their 20's, respectively, watched Inside Men and Kingsman: The Secret Service. However, he drew a line by saying, "It only means we now have an adequate movie environment where R-rated movies can also have a chance, not where all R-rated movies can be successful."
    New Market for R -rated Movies

    However, R-rated movies in the Korean film market seem to have a stronger ground in the future. J.D. HAN, the president of Sanai Pictures, as well as the producer of New World, says, “As the video generation has entered their 30's and 50's, they have naturally become producers and viewers of R-rated movies.” He is producing another R-rated action film called Asura by KIM Sung-soo, which will inherit New World's legacy. Asura is a death match involving a bunch of bad guys, played by JUNG Woo-sung, HWANG Jung-min and JU Ji-hoon, all with different life goals.
    HAN predicts that the R-rated film distribution market this year will be very competitive, as PARK Chan-wook's The Handmaiden and CHOO Chang-min's Night of 7 Years are all set to open as R-rated titles.
    The ever growing rights market, including IPTV, VOD and mobile, is also boosting the expansion of the R-rated movie market. Homegrown erotic films are now back with new series, which once collapsed with the decline of video rentals. Erotic films account for 81.1% of the total number of Japanese films imported to Korea.
    On the IPTV market, R-rated movies like New World, The Treacherous, and Inside Men: The Original are still popular, reaching 600-700 thousand hits. Launches of foreign dramas through platforms like Netflix seem to have a positive influence on the R-rated film market in the future.
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