The latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise topped the South Korea box office last weekend, but the real story is in the film that took second place.
One of the three films of this year’s Jeonju Cinema Project, Our President (노무현입니다) set a new opening record for documentaries in South Korea, earning ₩4.90 billion (US$4.38 million) from 596,000 admissions over its first four days on release.
The CGV Arthouse release originally opened on 579 screens on Thursday, but it gradually expanded to 774 by Saturday. It accounted for 20.6% of total box office revenue for the weekend.
Directed by Lee Chang-jae, Our President covers the election campaign of late former president Roh Moo-hyun, who served between 2003 and 2008. South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, was one of Roh’s most trusted aides, serving as his campaign manager, Presidential Secretary of Civil Affairs and finally his Chief Secretary.
Documentaries tend to play the long game at the South Korea box office. The current record holder for highest grossing documentary in South Korea is My Love, Don’t Cross That River (님아, 그 강을 건너지 마오), which earned ₩37.3 billion (US$33.4 million) from 4.8 million admissions despite opening with only 62,000 admissions. That film was also distributed by CGV Arthouse.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales opened in first place, earning ₩12.9 billion (US$11.5 million) from 1.53 million admissions over its first five days on release.
In terms of admissions, that opening is slightly higher than On Stranger Tides, the franchise’s previous film, which opened with ₩13.2 billion (US$11.8 million) from 1.43 million admissions. However, that was earned over a four-day weekend. That film earned a total of ₩27.3 billion (US$24.4 million) from 3.13 million admissions during its theatrical run.
Dead Men Tell No Tales also opened significantly lower than At World’s End, which opened with ₩15.5 billion (US$13.9 million) from 2.46 million admissions over five days. It made ₩29.1 billion (US$26 million) from 4.57 million admissions during its theatrical run.
Japanese romance drama The 100th Love With You (君と100回目の恋) opened at sixth place, earning ₩245 million (US$219,000) from 30,100 admissions over its first four days on release.
Get Out dropped to third place, earning an additional ₩3.40 billion (US$3.04 million) from 402,000 admissions between Friday and Sunday, representing a week-on-week drop of 50.2%. The horror comedy has made ₩14.2 billion (US$12.7 million) from 1.72 million admissions after two weekends.
With a week-on-week drop of 70.8%, The Merciless (불한당: 나쁜 놈들의 세상) dropped to fourth place, earning ₩939 million (US$839,000) from 111,000 admissions between Friday and Sunday. The CJ Entertainment release has made ₩6.87 billion (US$6.14 million) from 846,000 admissions.
It’s believed that The Merciless’ disappointing box office performance was partly due to the publicity firestorm over director Byun Sung-hyun’s inflammatory comments on his personal Twitter account. Byun, who apologized after deleting the problematic tweets, was absent from the film’s Cannes midnight screening last week.
The Boss Baby has made ₩18.1 billion (US$16.2 million) from 2.34 million admissions. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has made ₩23.3 billion (US$20.9 million) from 2.72 million admissions.
Warriors of the Dawn (대립군), Wonder Woman, local indie Jane (꿈의 제인) open this weekend.