The Battleship Island, the historical action film, which premiered on July 26, was seen by over 970,000 viewers on its first day, setting a new record for the largest opening in Korean movie history. Accounting for 71.4% of all ticket sales, the film broke the record previously held by Tom Cruise’s The Mummy. The last Korean film to hold this record was 2016’s Train to Busan.
The World War II set film is directed by Ryoo Seung-wan (The Berlin File) and stars Song Joong-ki (from the popular K-drama Descendants of the Sun), So Ji-sub, Lee Jung-hyun and Hwang Jung-min. Its story of forced labor under Japanese occupation on the island of Hashima (nicknamed Battleship Island because of its shape resembling a warship), where a group of about 400 workers risk their lives to attempt an escape seems to have struck a chord with the Korean movie going population. The director has stated his intention of showing the futility of war rather than stirring up anti-Japanese sentiment through the film.
The Battleship Island is produced by Filmmaker R&K and distributed by CJ Entertainment. CJ Entertainment is the movie arm of Korea’s largest entertainment conglomerate CJ E&M, which also owns the country’s largest movie theater chain CGV. CJ has faced accusations in the past of monopolizing screens for its films. Some of this new film’s grand performance could be attributed to it being shown on more than 50% of screens in Korea on its first day, including in the busiest evening slots.
With a budget of USD 21 mn (23 bn won), The Battleship Island is one of the more expensive Korean films, and needs 8 mn ticket sales to break even. By its 4th day, the film has already taken in over 3 mn admissions. The film will release on August 3 in Hong Kong and on August 17 in Singapore. North America release is set for August 4.