'12.12: The Day' Defies November Box Office Lull to Surpass 5 Million Viewers | Be Korea-savvy

’12.12: The Day’ Defies November Box Office Lull to Surpass 5 Million Viewers

SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Korea Bizwire) – In an unexpected turn of events, director Kim Sung-su’s film ’12.12: The Day,’ centered around the December 12, 1979 military coup in South Korea, is on the verge of surpassing the 5 million cumulative viewers mark.

Released in the traditionally slow month of November and diverging from recent audience trends with its dark and intense atmosphere, ’12.12: The Day’ has earned praise for its unexpected box office success. 

With no significant competition until the release of director Kim Han-min’s ‘Noryang’ on December 20, there are cautious predictions that ’12.12: The Day’ could become the second film to breach the 10 million viewer mark this year after ‘The Roundup: No Way Out.’

However, initial expectations for ’12.12: The Day’ to achieve such success were not widespread before its release. November is typically a low season for theaters due to decreased attendance between Chuseok and the year-end holidays.

Distributors usually release big-budget films during the high-demand summer market or holidays like Chuseok and Lunar New Year. ’12.12: The Day’ deviated from this trend. 

The film also stands out amidst the recent trend of successful Korean films falling into the comedy genre, while ’12.12: The Day’ lacks any comedic elements. Moreover, with a runtime of 2 hours and 20 minutes, it is relatively long.

As of late, there has been a sentiment among industry insiders that without comedy, it would be challenging to capture the hearts of audiences, especially the younger demographic. Ironically, ’12.12: The Day’ managed to overturn this perception with the active support of viewers in their 20s and 30s. 

According to CGV, viewers in their 20s and 30s constitute more than half of the audience for ’12.12: The Day,’ with 26 percent in their 20s and 30 percent in their 30s. 

The film chronicles the events that unfolded on December 12, 1979, over nine intense hours involving Major General Chun Doo-hwan (played by Hwang Jung-min) and the Capital Defense Command between the attempted coup and military forces.

Film critic Yoon Sung-eun notes that despite the lingering impact of COVID-19, films like ’12.12: The Day’ tap into the steady interest of Korean audiences in modern history, a topic not extensively covered in textbooks, making it a commercially viable subject for films.

Yoon adds, “Even so, if the film weren’t entertaining, viewers in their 20s and 30s wouldn’t bother watching. ’12.12: The Day’ manages to provide gripping entertainment beyond the thriller genre, making it appealing to the audience. The general sentiment is that the 2 hours and 20 minutes felt too short.” 

Various memes utilizing dialogue and characters from the film are also trending. The film industry attributes the film’s 170,000 audience count in the second weekend (surpassing the 149,000 in the first weekend) to the power of word-of-mouth. 

A multiplex official emphasized that films with rich narratives generate diverse content created by viewers, and ’12.12: The Day’ is a prime example. “Viewers are more engaged, wondering what happened to the characters or their descendants. Among viewers in their 20s and 30s, who make up 56 percent of the audience and are the most active online, word-of-mouth has had a significant impact.” 

Film critic Yoon Sung-eun notes, “The so-called MZ generation is anxious about things others know but they don’t. The desire to quickly catch up and be part of the conversation is another factor drawing them to theaters.”

J. S. Shin (js_shin@koreabizwire.com) 

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