Local Blockbusters Prepare to Go Head-to-Head as Summer Heats Up
Jul 19, 2019
- Writerby Pierce Conran
Period Drama, Disaster Comedy, Supernatural Action-Drama and War Film in the Mix
Following a busier than usual late spring and early summer period, which has already welcomed two new members to the 10 million viewer club, the Disney titles Avengers: Endgame and Aladdin, and with BONG Joon-ho’s PARASITE a few days away from reaching the mark as well, Korea’s multiplexes won’t have time to catch their breath as we reach the high summer season at the Korean box office, which coincides with the school holidays and usually stretches from late July until mid-August.
Korea’s top studios have assembled five major titles, among them one animation, which will each vie for glory during the busiest box office season of the year. Previous summer champs that bowed in the same time frame include The Host (2006), The Thieves (2012), Roaring Currents (2014), TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016) and last year’s Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days.
This week, Disney will once again look for box office glory as their live action update of The Lion King goes wide on Wednesday, July 17, but following that, save for the animated title The Secret Life of Pets 2 and some smaller titles, local titles will take over the box office, with no major Hollywood titles on deck again until August 14 when Universal will debut Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw.
The King’s Letters
DIRECTOR CHO Chul-hyun
RELEASE DATE July 24
Kicking off the local blockbuster season will be the period drama The King’s Letters, which will reunite Memories Of Murder (2003) and The Host (2006) co-stars SONG Kang-ho and PARK Hae-il for the third time. The film marks the directorial debut of CHO Chul-hyun, a veteran writer and producer known for working with director LEE Joon-ik on some of his most famous period dramas, including 2015’s The Throne, also with SONG Kang-ho.
SONG plays King Sejong, the revered fourth monarch of the Joseon Dynasty, who teams up with a Buddhist monk, played by PARK, to develop a simplified writing system for the Korean language, which would eventually become the world-famous Hangeul writing system.
Tragically, the film was dealt a huge blow just a few weeks ahead of its release when one of the film’s stars, JEON Mi-sun, passed away as a result of suicide. JEON had previously appeared with SONG and PARK in Memories Of Murder (2003).
DIRECTOR HONG Sung-ho
CAST Chloe Grace MORETZ, Sam CLAFIN, Gina GERSHON
RELEASE DATE July 25
A retelling of the classic fable, Red Shoes, previously known as Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs, focuses on Snow White (voiced by Chloe Grace MORETZ) who comes upon a pair of magical shoes belonging to an evil witch (Gina GERSHON) that transforms her into a beautiful princess. At the same time seven men are seeking a beautiful woman to kiss, which would reverse the curse that has turned them into dwarfs.
This long-awaited feature length animation, which is completely Korean-made but features a Hollywood voice cast including Chloe-Grace MORETZ, Sam CLAFLIN and Gina GERSHON, marks the directorial debut of HONG Sung-ho. HONG is an industry veteran who has overseen animation on several major Korean animated titles, such as Wonderful Days (2003) and Leafie, a Hen into the Wild (2011).
The film is debuting in the Korean market before moving on to other territories. International sales agent Finecut reported wide sales for the film at the European Film Market in Berlin earlier this year that will include releases all over Asia, Europe and South America. The animation, which reportedly cost USD 20 million to produce, will bow in North America on December 13, just ahead of the Christmas holidays.
DIRECTOR LEE Sang-geun
RELEASE DATE July 31
Following in the footsteps of hits such as Haeundae (2009), The Tower (2012) and Tunnel (2016), EXIT will bring back the popular disaster drama genre to Korean theaters this summer, but this time with laughs to go along with the thrills.
JO Jung-suk, of The Drug King (2018) and Hit-and-Run Squad, plays a jobless thirty-something man who stages a 70th birthday celebration for his mother, where he meets his college crush, played by Girls’ Generation member Yoon-a (Confidential Assignment, 2017) in her first leading role in a film. When a poisonous gas strikes the city, the pair put their experience in their college rock-climbing club to the test.
EXIT is the latest project from the hit production company Filmmaker R & K, founded by director RYOO Seung-wan and producer KANG Hae-jung, which was responsible for Veteran (2015) and The Battleship Island (2017), among many others. The film is the feature debut of LEE Sang-geun, who previously worked in the directing department of director RYOO’s Dachimawa Lee (2008).
The Divine Fury
DIRECTOR Jason KIM
RELEASE DATE July 31
Two years after their buddy cop trainee action-comedy Midnight Runners became the sleeper hit of the summer of 2017, director Jason KIM and star PARK Seo-jun are back with a far more ambitious project, the occult action-thriller The Divine Fury.
PARK plays Yong-woo, a mixed martial arts champion whose father died in an accident when he was a child. He develops stigmata on his hand and when he meets Priest An, who dabbles in exorcism, he discovers that he has special powers. Together, they use these powers to fight against mysterious forces.
Co-star AHN Sung-ki, one of the legends of the Korean film industry, has starred in seminal Korean films from the early 1960s all the way to the present day. The film also features the young actor WOO Do-hwan of Master (2016), while CHOI Woo-shik has a special appearance as a priest. In fact, PARK also had a special appearance opposite CHOI earlier this year in BONG Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or-winning PARASITE.
The Battle: Roar to Victory
DIRECTOR WON Shin-yun
RELEASE DATE August 7
Based on the Fengwudong Battle of 1920, The Battle: Roar to Victory chronicles the struggles of the Korean Independence Army against the country’s Japanese colonizers. The film is the latest by director WON Shin-yun, just two years after his fifth film MEMOIR OF A MURDERER (2017), and reunites RYU Jun-yeol and YOO Hae-jin, who appeared together in the political drama A Taxi Driver, the most successful film released in the summer of 2017.
YOO plays Hae-chul, who leads a battalion of the Korean Independence Army as they carry out a mission to deliver funds to the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai. During the mission he meets the young squad commander Jang-ha (played by RYU), who has been tasked with defending the village of Samdunja. Together they beat Japanese forces in the area but soon find themselves on the run from a larger force. Meanwhile, Hae-chul discovers that Jang-ha has another secret task he needs to complete.
Director WON is no stranger to large-scale action fare, having directed the hit North Korea spy thriller The Suspect in 2013, not to mention having worked as a stuntman for several years before turning to directing.