5:23 pm - 01/07/2019

S. Korean moviegoers captivated by singalong screenings of "Bohemian Rhapsody"

As the theater turned pitch black, nearly 200 moviegoers were waiting for the screening to start, with some holding glow-in-the-dark sticks and tambourines. They were also ready to do something unusual: sing along.

As "Somebody to Love," a hit song by the legendary British rock band Queen, blared out, the audience for the movie "Bohemian Rhapsody" began to clap their hands, yell with joy and belt out the number as if they were at a live concert.

"Let's sing together, loudly," shouted a young woman who sat in the back seat of the multiplex theater in Seoul last Saturday.

What's otherwise not allowed at a theater -- clapping one's hands, stomping feet and singing songs -- has become a new movie-watching culture in South Korea on the back of the film's runaway success.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" follows the life of Freddie Mercury (played by Rami Malek), the charismatic lead singer of Queen, and the band's rise to global stardom. The band was created in 1970 in London, and Mercury died at age 45 in 1991 due to AIDS-related complications.

The film has attracted a cumulative audience of 9.64 million in South Korea since its opening on Oct. 31, 2018, according to data from the Korean Film Council.

The Queen biopic had grossed US$69.9 million in South Korea as of Dec. 30, higher than the United Kingdom with $61.2 million, according to data by Box Office Mojo. Excluding the United States, South Korea has become the top country in regards to ticket sales around the world.

The movie is set to smash a landmark 10 million mark in terms of the number of moviegoers in South Korea, whose population stands at some 52 million. If the film hits the mark, it will become the first music-themed movie and the sixth imported film to set such a record here.

The huge popularity of the movie has shown no signs of easing, mainly driven by viewers' repeated visits to theaters offering the singalong screenings, industry watchers said.

CJ CGV, Megabox and Lotte Cinema, the country's three major multiplex cinema chains, are running the singalong screenings of "Bohemian Rhapsody," allowing the audience to be easily immersed in group singing. At the singalong theaters, lyrics pop up on the big screen.

Top player CJ CGV's panoramic ScreenX theaters and its rival Megabox's MX theaters, which feature the Dolby Atmos sound system, also add excitement to the movie-watching experience.

"It is rare that a film is on screens for more than two months in Korea," Kim Dae-hee, general manager at CJ CGV's communications team, said.

"Repeated watching by moviegoers loyal to 'Bohemian Rhapsody' has boosted the ticket sales," she added.

The number of moviegoers who watched the film more than 30 times reached 68 between Oct. 31 and Dec. 23, and eight people saw the movie more than 50 times, according to CGV's research center.

The re-watching rate for the movie reached 9.9 percent as of Jan. 6, it added.

"When the film opened, those in their 40s who have nostalgia for Queen's music topped the audience list. But now, the audience base has expanded into those in their 20s and 30s," Kim said.

Last Saturday evening, nearly 200 moviegoers packed the CGV theater in Yeongdeungpo, southwest Seoul, known to avid fans as one of two meccas for the singalong screenings.

The climax of "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the re-enactment of Queen's iconic live performance at Live Aid, a charity concert for famine relief in Ethiopia, in July 1985 at Wembley Stadium in London.

As Malek, embodying Mercury, started to sing the band's signature song "Bohemian Rhapsody," almost half of the Korean audience rushed to the front of the theater without hesitation in a bid to become part of the performance.

Scores of people waved colorful luminous sticks and tambourines in front of the panoramic screens.

Those at the front belted out hits like "Radio Ga Ga" and "We Are the Champions." They soon danced in a conga line as if strangers were their friends.

Those who did not dare to walk down to the front rose from their seats, clapping their hands and singing along to the music.

Several attendees screamed "Encore!" as if they were really at Queen's live gig. And most of the moviegoers did not leave the theater until the closing credits rolled up to the end.

"This is my sixth singalong experience. I really like the audience's passionate reactions," said Lee Seung-hun, who is in his 40s.

"I listened to Queen's music for the first time when I was a middle school student. This movie led me to understand Mercury's life and his personal struggle as well as passion for music," he said.

Kwon Ju-young, a 23-year-old office worker, said that only after she watched the movie did she realize that Queen's hits are familiar songs.

"I've watched the film eight times. I've been repeatedly watching the movie and listening to the band's songs," she said. "I will definitely see the movie again."

Movie critics said the film tweaked chronological facts and failed to adequately explore Mercury's sexuality and wild lifestyle. Some even said that the movie has homophobic elements.

But many South Koreans are apparently more hooked to Queen's songs themselves as they feel familiar because the band's tracks are often used as the background music of TV ads here or played at sports events.

"Statistically speaking, South Koreans love music-themed movies. But not all such films have been hits," movie critic Youn Sung-eun said.

"The audience is enjoying Queen's music. That's the main driver for the film's success here," she noted.

source: Yonhap News
lulufairybubble 8th-Jan-2019 01:29 am (UTC)

Cool idea and im sure it's a good movie.  I wont put money in Singer's pockets tho so I wont ever see this movie.

lil_poisonfrog 8th-Jan-2019 07:39 am (UTC)
Yup, plus I heard it straightwashes Freddy? No thx. The reviews have been mediocre as well. I love Queen but I feel no desire to see it.
violoncelliste 8th-Jan-2019 05:06 pm (UTC)
jesus, no, it doesn't. the movie makes it very clear that he was queer.

the reviews were mediocre because they were written by straight people or queer people who for some reason think they know more about Freddie than people who actually knew him
lil_poisonfrog 8th-Jan-2019 05:57 pm (UTC)
I'm talking more about stuff like totally rewriting the way he met his one partner...they actually met in a gay bar but instead the movie portrays him as Freddie's servant that he gropes? Maybe staightwashed isn't the right term bc that seems downright homophobic tbh

And I'm pretty sure ppl had negative things to say about the movie for reasons other than just the historical accuracy but okay...

Edited at 2019-01-08 06:00 pm (UTC)
epona 8th-Jan-2019 02:07 am (UTC)
It's crazy how huge this movie has been in Korea
existingisfunny 8th-Jan-2019 02:19 am (UTC)
I know some NCT members saw it twice lol. I'm curious why it's struck such a chord with Korean audiences.
premonitioner 8th-Jan-2019 06:34 am (UTC)
maybe they weren't exposed to Queen in the same way other countries may have been? and for a lot of people it might be the first time they've ever heard of Queen? I was raised on 70s/80s rock so I had an early education on Queen, but if this movie had been my first experience with their music, I'd probably fall in love with it too
lil_poisonfrog 8th-Jan-2019 07:41 am (UTC)
That was my guess too, but if that's the case why would they even screen it in Korea then? Maybe it would've been a miscalculation but fortunately for them it took off.
epona 8th-Jan-2019 09:50 pm (UTC)
my sister saw it here in Canada but said there were two Korean girls in the audience who audibly gasped in shock when he was diagnosed in with AIDS in the movie
modestgoddess79 8th-Jan-2019 04:27 am (UTC)
Sounds fun. Musicals are so popular in Korea.
donaldjdrumpf 8th-Jan-2019 05:02 am (UTC)
It's not a good movie at all and I love Rami but he wasn't Freddie I'm sorry.
lil_poisonfrog 8th-Jan-2019 07:43 am (UTC)
I really wanna know how well known Queen's music was in Korea before this. It's popularity is so interesting to me. Like if this was your first and only exposure to them I guess I can see how ppl would go nuts.

Edit: ok still not sure after reading the article...the 23 yo didn't know their music yet ppl hear it in commericials and sporting events? In America I would say that even young ppl who don't listen to oldies know Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions/We Will Rock You, and Another One Bites the Dust. Maybe Under Pressure and Crazy Little Thing Called Love too.

Edited at 2019-01-08 07:55 am (UTC)
hillando 10th-Jan-2019 03:13 am (UTC)
re: hearing their music in commercials
I think it's kind of like how we know classical music pieces from commercials but have no idea who composed them or what the name of the piece is. And Korea is not a rock country at all, they know like 2 songs from the Beatles, tops, I'm not surprised they don't know Queen. Some legendary groups in the west are practically unknown in Korea unless you're really into that type of music in the first place.
pseudo_shigure 8th-Jan-2019 09:13 am (UTC)
why dont we have it hereee

hillando 10th-Jan-2019 03:17 am (UTC)
I enjoyed the movie, but the live performance scenes were the best part of it, hands down.

Korea is quick to jump to trends. When something is considered trendy, the whole nation does it (Honey butter chips, anyone?). But Koreans are also quick to jump to the next trend too, so we'll see how long the Queen fever holds up. I heard Bohemian Rhapsody (the song) play at a store the other day when I was walking around Seoul's chinatown. I'm just glad that this movie is allowing Koreans to get to know Queen's music, their repertoire is something else.
juhli 11th-Jan-2019 03:44 pm (UTC)
If this makes rock bands more popular in Korea again, i'd be happy
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