Increasingly, Disney’s decision to make South Korean boy band idol LuHan its ambassador for Star Wars in China (where the film doesn’t open until early January) looks like a canny one. And not just because of the potential for “LuHan Solo” type gags.
This morning the internet was awash with stories about how Star Wars: The Force Awakens had opened at number one in every territory where it has opened already… except two: South Korea and Vietnam.
So what’s beaten the Force in those countries? In both cases, home-made films. Seems there’s a considerable interest in “Hallyu” – the Korean pop culture wave – in the region at the moment that’s being reflected at the box office. And while the film that beat Disney’s blockbuster in Vietnam was technically Vietnamese, it was actually a remake of a South Korean film.
That film was Sweet 20, based on the 2104 South Korean film Miss Granny, a fantasy about a grandmother who wakes up as her 20 year-old self after a visit to a strange photo-studio (its production company CJ E&M seems to be franchising out the concept to various other countries for remakes too, including Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Germany). Amazingly the Vietnamese remake was in its second week of release when it managed to beat Star Wars.
In South Korea Star Wars: The Force Awakens was beaten by true-story-inspired mountaineering adventure drama The Himalayas which grossed $8.7 million as opposed to Force’s $7.9 million performance over the same period.
Disney probably isn’t too worried about being bested in smallish territories such as South Korea and Vietnam, but China is a different matter. It’s now the second-biggest market for movies on the planet so Disney would obviously love to see Star Wars breaking records there too. That’s why it has turned to LuHan, whose old band, EXO, incidentally, has already released a single and video called “Lightsaber” with Disney’s full co-operation (see it here). LuHan’s single, called ‘The Inner Force” is imminent.
According to Disney has been made an honorary member of the “Jedi Order” in China. He’ll be appearing in local advertising spots and at promotional events, and popping up on TV and all over the internet to give The Force Awakens the local seal of approval.
LuHan doesn’t seem a particularly loyal ambassador, though. Brand LuHan is also adding its weight to Dreamwork’s Kung Fu Panda 3, which comes out in China just a couple weeks after The Force Awakens.
LuHan has nearly 12 million followers on Weibo and holds the Guinness World Record for most comments on a single Weibo post (which was about Manchester United). His post announcing his official connection with Star Wars — “I am honored to be the Star Wars ambassador to China, May the Force be with you!” — has been retweeted some 1.5 million times. So you can tell why Disney and Dreamworks weren’t going to come on too strong about demanding his exclusivity.
[via The Hollywood Reporter]