Lunar New Year Box Office; Korea’s Current Malaise & Upcoming Films

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Streamlined has only been offline for one month, but in that time, it’s become clear that we’re having a challenging start to the year: war and politics are casting a shadow over the on-going Berlin film festival; global streamers are continuing their great local-language contraction, with Amazon Prime Video scaling back production in Asia, Middle East and Africa (while Netflix adds insult to injury by announcing a slew of local-language slates); US studios continue to shed employees as rumours swirl about further consolidation; one of the big proposed Indian media mergers has fallen apart; and exhibitors across the planet, following years of pandemic and Hollywood strikes disruption, are staring at release schedules that look disturbingly bare.

Here in Asia, territories celebrating the Lunar New Year holidays actually had something to cheer with a seasonal uplift in box office, which was never a sure thing given the strained economies and lack of consumer confidence in the region. But the lack of big studio releases in coming months is causing concern. Dune: Part Two will be welcomed, especially in Seoul where Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya are rumoured to be visiting, but there are no big four quadrant family films until Universal’s Kung Fu Panda 4 and Warner Bros/Toho’s Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire in April. March could be a good month for Oscar hopefuls with Past Lives finally getting an outing in Korea and Anatomy Of A Fall opening in China.

This edition of Streamlined will look at the Lunar New Year box office results across China, Korea and Vietnam; then dig into what is happening in Korea – the one Asian territory where box office recovering is really lagging – as well as touch on what Korean films are upcoming. Next editions will look at what’s coming in Japan, India and Southeast Asia.


First however, concerns are mounting about Filipino filmmaker Jade Castro, who has been detained with three friends by police in Mulanay, Quezon, who accused the group of setting a jeepney on fire, despite the fact that CCTV footage exists of them in a different location at the time. Police said the footage could have been doctored, which is a frightening indication of how new technologies could impact trust in the use of visual images in legal cases in the future. Local and international industry figures (including actress Dolly de Leon and organisations such as PEN and ICFR) have been showing their support through statements and an online campaign, tagged #FreeDirekJade.

China’s Lunar New Year Box Office

Lunar New Year is the biggest box office season in China, where this year the holiday is running for eight days (February 10-17). Xinhua News put out a statement yesterday to say box office revenues for the week hit RMB7bn ($980m), just under the $1bn achieved last year during a post-Covid revenge spending spree, when sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth 2 and Zhang Yimou’s Full River Red topped the box office. This year was expected to be softer with several factors dragging on China’s economy and the line-up of releases comprising mostly comedies with no big franchise titles.

However, the results were encouraging. As of February 17 morning, Jia Ling’s comedy drama YOLO [PICTURED ABOVE] directed by Jia Ling (Hi, Mom) had a cumulative gross of $369m (RMB2.63bn) after one week, followed by Han Han’s car racing comedy Pegasus 2 with $324m (RMB2.31bn), animation Boonie Bears: Time Twist with $189m (RMB1.35bn) and Zhang Yimou’s legal-themed comedy drama Article 20 with $175m (RMB1.25bn).

Ning Hao’s The Movie Emperor, also a comedy, but more niche in that it’s also a scathing film industry satire, had grossed $12m (RMB82.8m) after one week. While few mainstream Chinese films travel beyond diaspora audiences…

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