Korea Box Office: ‘The First Slam Dunk’ Vies With ‘Avatar 2′

“Avatar: The Way of Water” enjoyed the highest box office takings in Korea over the weekend and reclaimed the top spot after falling to second place a week earlier. But Japanese animation film “The First Slam Dunk,” now in its fourth weekend on release, was the most watched film of the frame and outscored the Hollywood fantasy in terms of ticket sales.

“Avatar 2” earned $2.20 million in its eighth weekend of release. That gives it a cumulative score of $107 million, earned from 10.4 million admissions. Over the latest weekend it sold 187,000 tickets.

Local media in Korea rank films by admissions, rather than revenues, and show “Avatar 2” in third place behind both “The First Slam Dunk” and “The Point Men.”

“Avatar 2” is the winner in revenue terms due to its significantly higher ticket prices, an effect boosted by its dominance of Imax and premium format venues.

“The First Slam Dunk,” a Toei Animation feature about a delinquent who discovers success with basketball and girls, has been a smash hit in its native Japan and elsewhere across Asia. It released in Korea immediately after the New Year holidays on Jan. 4 and has performed consistently ever since, recording four successive weekends with takings in the $2-3 million range.

Over the latest Friday to Sunday period, it grossed $2.12 million from 249,000 ticket sales, according to data from Kobis, the film tracking database operated by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC). That lifts its cumulative revenue total to $16.2 million, which is the second highest score of any film in Korean theaters in 2023, behind only “Avatar: The Way of Water.” The score is also the highest revenue total for any film released this calendar year.

“The Point Men,” a Korean drama film that a week earlier overtook “Avatar 2,” scored $1.72 million on its second weekend, earned from 205,000 ticket sales. “The Point Men” now has a 12-day cumulative of $12.0 million.

Over the latest weekend, Korean spy action film “Phantom” took fourth place with a $700,000 weekend score. After two weekends on release it now has a cumulative of $4.42 million.

Taiwan’s “Some Day Or One Day” was the highest placed new release. It earned $692,000 over the weekend (from 80,800 ticket sales) and $1.16 million over its opening five days.

American-made horror “M3gan” opened in sixth place. In revenue terms it was only a whisper behind, earning $691,000 from 79,600 ticket sales. Over itys opening five days, it earned $1.01 million.

Lower places belonged to: Korean-made “Hero,” which earned $576,000 for a seven-weekend cumulative of $24.6 million; “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” with $326,000 for a four-week cumulative of $5.81 million; Japan’s “Even if This Love Disappears From the World Tonight,” which earned $217,000 for a two month cumulative of $8.44 million; and Korean animation “Carrie & Superkola,” which took $140,000 for a two-weekend cumulative of $670,000.

After the boost provided by “Avatar 2” and the Christmas, New Year and Lunar New Year holiday stimuli, nationwide Korean cinema revenues slipped back to more normal levels, with a sub-$10 million weekend total.

The tangle at the top of the chart, among holdover titles, also reflects a dearth of significant new releases entering cinemas. That can be seen as a typical January lull or a pause before the last batch of Korean titles that delayed their releases during COVID tiles finally makes its way to theaters. There are still many to come.

These include: comedy “Count,” delayed from June 2020; “My Puppy,” which had a festival release in October last year; and crime thriller “The Devil’s Deal,” and Kang Je-gyu’s “Boston Marathon,” which wrapped production as long ago as January 2020. It is now aiming for a September 2023 release, in time for the Chuseok holidays.

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