The top Korean movies at the box office in Korea were not necessarily well-received in other countries. The following list comprises Korean-made films that were the most successful in the U.S. box office market.
Dragon Wars: D-War (2007) – $10,977,721
This was a super hyped up film with over-the-top visual effects that was the first ever Korean film to be given a wide release (over 2,000 theaters) in the U.S. It opened to $5 million in the first weekend, which was mediocre considering the amount of exposure and publicity it had garnered in the media. Critics panned the film, which may have accounted for its lackluster performance at the box office.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003) – $2,380,788
On its first weekend, this film raked in $42,561 in just six theaters which was a monumental achievement for any foreign film at the time. It would go on to play for 27 more weeks at up to an impressive 74 venues at one point in time. Nearly all critics praised the movie, evidenced by a 95% “fresh” rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
The Host (2006) – $2,201,412
This was yet another critically acclaimed movie that performed well at the North American box office, with an impressive opening weekend total of $314,488 in 71 theaters. It would go on to play at theaters for 17 more weeks at up to 116 venues.
Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004) – $1,110,186
This epic film about the Korean War fared well at the U.S. box office with an opening weekend total of $260,135 at just 29 venues. Its total gross of over $1 million is all the more impressive knowing that its widest release was just 34 theaters.
Together (2002) – $1,034,829
This film opened to $45,848 at just two theaters for an outstanding per theater average of $22,924. It enjoyed considerable success with three consecutive weekends of over $100,000 playing at under 50 theaters.
Chunhyangdyun (2000) – $798,220
This was one of the earlier films that gained attention in the U.S., and it enjoyed a lengthy run at the box office for a period lasting nine months in U.S. theaters.
Oldboy (2003) – $707,481
This film about one man’s revenge opened to $68,957 at five theaters, which was an average of $13,791 per theater, an astounding number especially for a foreign film.
The Promise (2005) – $668,171
This movie was generally disliked by critics and public interest for the film died out quickly with just six weeks in release despite a relatively wide opening in over 200 theaters.
Mother (2009) – $547,292
This film earned a 95% “fresh” rating from Rotten Tomatoes and it was able to round up more than $500,000 at the U.S. box office playing at less than 40 theaters.
The Way Home (2002) – $445,367
This simple film about a young boy and his grandmother won big at the Korean box office. It also made its debut in the U.S. with $29,737 in just three theaters. It would go on to enjoy 24 more weeks in release.
The Internet Movie Database
Box Office Mojo