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'Parasite' sweeps local box office

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People buy tickets for the award-winning movie
People buy tickets for the award-winning movie "Parasite" directed by Bong Joon-ho at a ticket kiosk in a theater in Seoul, Thursday. Nearly 570,000 tickets were sold for the film's premiere here. Yonhap

By Park Jin-hai

Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho's Cannes Film Festival award-winning movie "Parasite" swept the local box office on its opening day Thursday.

Fanned by its Palme d'Or crown and moviegoers' high expectations for the director, "Parasite" attracted ab audience of almost 570,000 on its opening day, easily surpassing that of runner-up "Aladdin" with 74,000, according to data from the Korean Film Council.

Given the real-time reservation rate for the film on its second day remains at 70 percent, and that audiences have left mostly positive reviews, the local industry is expecting "Parasite" to become a box office hit.

The reservation rate is similar to that of "Train to Busan" and "Along with the Gods," smash box office hits that accrued more than 10 million viewers.

Bong's tragicomedy is about two families of extremely different social backgrounds, one poor and one wealthy.

"It is a tragedy disguised as a comedy," one audience member tweeted. "It reveals the bare face of our society today. While I was watching the film, I had this uncomfortable feeling I was watching the truth that people want to ignore. Although I get angry at the social structure issue, in one corner of my mind, I was also wishing that I could be in the rich family's shoes."

Another audience member, who gave the film a 10-out-of-10, said: "I was shocked by my own double standards."

Many moviegoers tried to find clues for the symbolism the director had embedded in his film, saying they want to watch it more than once.

So far, many Cannes prize-winning films have not matched this success at the box office.

Park Chan-wook's neo-noir action thriller "Oldboy" (2004), which received the Grand Prix, the second-highest Cannes prize, earned the best audience response, attracting 3.26 million.

Lee Chang-dong's "Secret Sunshine," which gave Jeon Do-yeon the best actress award at Cannes, followed with 1.7 million. For Lee's 2010 film "Poetry," which won the Cannes best screenplay award, only 220,000 people watched the film in local theaters.

However, industry watchers expect it will be different this time, because Bong has been acclaimed for artistry and market potential.

With the exception of his debut film "The Dog of Flanders," most of his movies have been box office successes. "The Host" (2006) attracted more than 13 million viewers, while "Snowpiercer" (2013) gathered 9.4 million. His adults-only film "Mother" gained a local audience of more than 3 million.

Park Jin-hai


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