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‘Sinkhole,’ ‘Escape From Mogadishu’ conquer box office over Liberation Day weekend

A scene from “‘Sinkhole,” directed by Kim Ji-hoon (Showbox)
A scene from “‘Sinkhole,” directed by Kim Ji-hoon (Showbox)

Over the three-day Liberation Day weekend Aug. 14-16, South Korean films “Sinkhole” and “Escape From Mogadishu” conquered the local box office.

Disaster comedy “Sinkhole,” directed by Kim Ji-hoon, was released Aug. 11 and took the No. 1 spot, attracting more than 740,000 viewers over the holiday weekend for a total to date of over 1.14 million. It passed the 1 million mark faster than any other film this year.

“Sinkhole” is set at Chungwoon Villa, one of the cheaper housing options available in pricey Seoul. Although there is an annoying neighbor played by Cha Seung-won, office worker Dong-won (Kim Sung-kyun) is very happy that he is finally a homeowner after saving for more than 10 years. Dong-won invites his co-workers over to his new place for a housewarming party, but the next morning the building falls into a giant sinkhole.

The No. 2 spot at the local box office went to “Escape From Mogadishu,” directed by Ryoo Seung-wan. The film, based on a real-life event, attracted more than 410,000 viewers over the holiday. Since the movie’s release July 28, it has racked up over 2.44 million viewers.

Set in Somalia in 1991 -- when both Koreas were vying for membership in the United Nations and each sought to prevent the other’s inclusion -- the movie begins with a scene between South Korean Ambassador to Somalia Han Shin-sung (Kim Yoon-seok) and Kang Dae-jin (Jo In-sung), a spy with the Agency for National Security Planning. The two are discussing how to prevent the North Korean ambassador (Heo Jun-ho) from establishing a stronger relationship with the Somali government. But then a civil war breaks out in Somalia and the city is plunged into chaos.

The release of the two films was possible with support from the Korean Theater Association, which includes among its members the top three multiplex operators: CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox. Earlier in June, the association decided to forgo ticket proceeds until sales reached 50 percent of the total production costs of “Escape From Mogadishu” and “Sinkhole.” Theaters and film distributors usually split ticket sales 50-50. “Escape From Mogadishu” cost around 25 billion won ($21.82 million) to make, while “Sinkhole” cost around 14 billion won.

The support was a way to encourage local film distributors to release movies, even though the number of moviegoers decreased dramatically last year because of COVID-19.

In 2020, the number of people who visited local theaters plunged 74 percent from the year before. It was the greatest decline since the Korean Film Council started compiling box office data in 2004.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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