[PICK] Korean Films that Zeroed in on Holiday Box Office But Failed

Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

This year, theaters faced an unprecedented crisis due to the COVID-10 pandemic, but still, the Chuseok holiday (Korean Thanksgiving holidays) is considered the peak season along with summer vacation and winter vacation. During these times, big-time distributors like CJ, Lotte, and Showbox release their tent-pole films one after another. However, not all movies can be loved by the audience. Let’s take a look at some of the most anticipated movies that eventually became box office bombs.


2012 – The Spies

Credit: Lotte Cultureworks

Ahead of the Chuseok holiday in September 2012, when Masquerade was on a roll, the movie The Spies, an action comedy film, was released. Kim Myung Min, who led the film Deranged, released in the same summer, to a box office success, starred in the movie, raising expectations as a face-off between Kim Myung Min and Masquerade star Lee Byung Hun. It was expected to be a fun and enjoyable film for the holiday season, but unfortunately, the audience didn’t feel the same way. On the first day of its release, it attracted only 60,000 moviegoers and failed to reach the break-even point of 2.3 million by finishing at 1.3 million.


2015 – The Long Way Home

Credit: Lotte Cultureworks

The Long Way Home was spotlighted by the meeting between the rising star Yeo Jin Goo and Sol Kyung Gu, one of the strongest ticket power actors. The movie tried to convey the joys and sorrows of the war with laughter and tears in order to differentiate itself from the existing war movies, but failed to make it a box office hit for being “too obvious.” It debuted at No. 5 in the box office as it was pushed down by The Throne and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, which were released a few days early, and The Accidental Detective and The Intern, which were released on the same day. As a result, it failed to reach the break-even point without even getting a chance to “bust a gut.” The production budget was 7.3 billion KRW (about 6,262,658 USD) and the break-even point was 2.5 million moviegoers, but it only attracted 600,000.


2016 – The Map Against the World

Credit: CJ Entertainment

In the fall of 2016, two history movies appeared at the same time: The Age of Shadows, which depicted the independence movement during the Japanese colonial era as a spy film, and The Map Against the World, which told the story of Kim Jung Ho, who walked across the Korean peninsula to make a map. Kim Ji Woon and Kang Woo Suk, both outstanding directors, were in charge of the production, and the film was expected to be a box office hit, but the result was The Age of Shadows‘s sweeping victory. The Map Against the World was heavily criticized for its “unsophisticated” directing and being “so cliche.” The break-even point of the movie, which cost 10 billion KRW (about 8,584,650 USD) to produce, was 3.2 million moviegoers, but received the report card of 970,000.


2018 – Monstrum, The Negotiation, Feng Shui

Credit: Lotte Entertainment, CJ Entertainment, Megabox Plus M

The 2018 Chuseok holiday was more competitive than any other year. Monstrum first confirmed its release on Sept. 12, and soon, The Negotiation, Feng Shui, and The Great Battle joined the box office battle on Sept. 19. Four blockbuster films, each had a production budget of 10 billion KRW (about 8,584,650 USD) or higher, jumped into the game around the same time. And of them, only The Great Battle reached the break-even point. Monstrum, which got a head start, only attracted 720,000 moviegoers and failed to reach the break-even point of 3 million amid harsh criticism that it was the worst monster movie. The Negotiation and Feng Shui also was unable to achieve break-even points. Like Monstrum, they were estimated to have 3 million as their break-even points, but only drew 1.9 million and 2 million, respectively.


2019 – Tazza: One Eyed Jack

Credit: Lotte Entertainment

During the 2019 Chuseok holiday, Tazza: One Eyed Jack, the third film of the popular Tazza franchise, was released amid much anticipation. Park Jung Min, Ryu Seung Bum, and Lee Kwang Soo took the lead roles, and the movie tried to differentiate itself from their previous works by using poker instead of hwatu (Korean traditional card game). However, the prevailing reaction was that it was the worst film from the franchise. In the end, Tazza: One Eyed Jack only attracted 2.2 million moviegoers, less than the break-even point of 2.6 million. Considering that Tazza: The High Rollers, released in 2006, drew 5.68 million moviegoers, and Tazza: The Hidden Card, released in 2014, drew 4 million moviegoers, this result is all the more disappointing.

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