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Local films look to expand stories: Movie franchises offer potential to guarantee an audience in theaters

Aug 25,2017
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From top to bottom are “Detective K,” “D-War” and “The Accidental Detective” series. [SHOWBOX, CJ E&M]
The well-received “Midnight Runners,” which hit theaters earlier this month, is an action comedy revolving around two awkward, yet ambitious Korean National Police University students who take tracking down criminals into their own hands. When working on this buddy movie, Kim Ju-hwan, the writer and director of the film, had hopes of turning the film into a series.

Though Kim did not make any mention of a sequel in the film’s title, the filmmaker added a number of subplots that could naturally lead to a follow-up. One could imagine a sequel following the two main characters as they start their careers in the police force after graduation.

If “Midnight Runners” did continue with a part two, it would be following a recent trend in the local film industry in which a number of local movies are extending their stories into franchises.

A sequel to the 2015 crime comedy “The Accidental Detective” began filming in June with an aim for a theatrical release next year. Starring Sung Dong-il and Kwon Sang-woo, the movie, about a joint investigation of a demoted detective and a comic bookstore owner running an online forum about unresolved murder cases, sold 2.6 million tickets at the box office.

The sequel will be an extension of a story that started at end of the first movie, which saw the two characters opening their own private investigation company. With “Missing” (2016) director E.Oni behind the camera, the sequel will be based on a case the pair receives from a client with an addition of new stars like Lee Kwang-soo and Son Dam-bi.

Comedic mystery flick “Detective K” (2011), set during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), is slated to release its third film in the franchise next year after its first and second pulled in 4.8 million and 3.9 million total ticket sales, respectively. Once again directed by Kim Seok-yoon and starring Kim Myeong-min and Oh Dal-su, the movie begins filming earlier this month.

The surprise box office success of Shim Hyung-rae’s “D-War” in 2007, which sold 8.43 million tickets despite harsh reviews, is slated to hit theaters in the summer of 2019 under the title “D-War: Mysteries of the Dragon.” The script for the sequel of the action-adventure fantasy flick has been completed, and filming will kick off next year, according to Shim.

A script for the prequel of the 2014 crime movie “The Divine Move” has been completed while a sequel to “The Berlin File” (2013) is gearing up, according to its production company Filmmaker R&K last month.

Follow-ups to the adventure movie “The Pirates” (2014) and the action-packed “Veteran” (2015), which sold 8.7 million tickets and 13.4 million tickets, respectively, are also being discussed.

The upcoming fantasy film “Along With the Gods,” adapted from cartoonist Joo Ho-min’s popular webtoon, has already confirmed that there will be a second film, even before the release of the first, which hits theaters on Dec. 20.

Releasing sequels and creating a cinematic world through film franchises have become common business tactics in Hollywood, as seen in the success of the DC Comics and Marvel films. But franchise movies have not yet found their places in the Korean film industry, outside of a couple film series like “Whispering Corridors,” “My Wife is a Gangster” and “Public Enemy.”

The increase in the production of sequels is a positive sign that proves the growth of the Korean film industry, according to film critic Kim Hyeong-seok.

“Producing sequels stabilizes the local film industry, as they guarantee a certain number of viewers to theaters,” Kim said, pointing at Marvel fans, most of whom head to theaters whenever a new film is released, regardless of the stories or cast.

“But franchise films in Korea are still comparatively weak,” according to Kim, because Korean films do not have strong characters or a creative base, which explains why local movies continue to rely on retelling stories from history.

Another movie critic Oh Dong-jin similarly agreed that movie franchises could bring stability to the local film industry.

“Though making franchise movies could be seen as taking the easy way, efforts to differentiate [one film in a series] from the previous ones are underway,” Oh said.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]