Train To Busan is No. 1 at Singapore box office and top Korean movie to date

A man walks past a poster of Train To Busan at a movie theatre in Seoul on Aug 4, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - South Korean movie Train To Busan is as resilient as the zombies it portrays - it has clawed its way up to the top of the local box office and also become the highest-grossing Korean movie in Singapore to date.

As of Wednesday (Aug 24), the film, which is still showing in cinemas, has made $3.1 million at the box office. That is more than triple the earnings of the next best performing Korean movie here - in 2007, romantic dramedy 200 Pounds Beauty (2006) had made $980,000.

Last weekend, Train To Busan also knocked Hollywood superhero blockbuster Suicide Squad off the box-office charts to reach the No. 1 spot - which is quite a feat given that the zombie flick was already in its third week of its release.

Starring Gong Yoo (Coffee Prince, 2007) as a workaholic fund manager who travels with his daughter by train from Seoul to Busan on her birthday, their journey soon descends into chaos when there is an outbreak of a virus that turns the passengers into crazed zombies.

Public relations specialist Fu Shuhui, 32, enjoyed the film so much she watched it twice in the cinemas.

She says: "I think this is the best zombie movie since 28 Days Later (2002), because this wasn't just a thriller - it was an action-packed emotional ride. The pacing was relentless but there was still time for character development too."

Train To Busan is distributed by Clover Films and Golden Village.

Ms Song Ting, distribution and marketing manager at Golden Village Pictures, believes Singapore movie-goers were captivated by its breathlessly thrilling sequences, much like how they tend to be excited by "other horror films".

She says: "There is also a touching human story here, and along with well-executed action sequences and high production values, all of these factors add up to the film's winning formula."

Traditionally, South Korean films do not fare particularly well in Singapore, despite the popularity here of the country's pop music and television shows.

According to industry insiders, it has been a challenge in recent years for Korean films to even break the $200,000 mark at the local box office.

In comparison, the list of top Asian titles in Singapore - besides local films - are dominated by Hong Kong and China co-productions.

The top three highest-grossing non-Singaporean Asian films here are gongfu movie Ip Man 3 (2015), which made $7.65 million; Jackie Chan actioner CZ12 (2012, $5 million); and Ip Man 2 (2010, $4.66 million).

Ms Song speculates that there are several reasons behind the poor performance of Korean films: "There is an increase in movie varieties at the cinemas. Some Korean films are also released much later here than when they first open in Korea, so people access them online."

Train To Busan had also set records when it opened in its native South Korea back in July, recording the highest single-day gross of US$9.64 million (S$13 million) from 1.28 million admissions.

Train To Busan is showing in cinemas.

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