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Korea Box Office: Don Lee’s ‘The Roundup: Punishment’ Smashes Its Way to $29 Million Debut, Crushes ‘Challengers’

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The Roundup: Punishment,” the fourth film in the Don Lee-starring crime action franchise, earned $20.9 million between Friday and Sunday and punched out all competition at the South Korean box office.

Challengers,” which headed the box office this weekend in North America, with $15 million, opened fourth in Korea a 0.5% market share.

Global cinema data service, Comscore reported that “Punishment” was the top-scoring film worldwide with $24.4 million earned from collections in six territories. It was narrowly ahead of “Challengers” which earned $24.0 million from 53 markets.

“Punishment” accounted for a crushing 94% market share in Korea and collected its weekend haul from 2.92 million ticket sales, according to data from Kobis, the tracking service operated by the Korean Film Council (Kofic).

The film opened officially on Wednesday, when it scored $4.92 million, and followed that with a $3.25 million Thursday. Including the weekday takings and a smattering of previews from the previous weekend, the film finished Sunday with a cumulative of $29.3 million, earned from 4.25 million spectators.

The stellar performance was the biggest opening this year, ahead of February’s “Exhuma,” a spooky drama that earned $14.5 million on its February first weekend and picked up pace in its second week.

Giant screen systems provider, Imax reports that “Punishment” earned $770,000 of its Korean score from just 24 screens. That represented its third highest opening of all time for a local title in Korea.

“Punishment” also lifted the South Korean box office to its second highest weekend performance of the year – $22.1 million.

The film, which sees a tough-guy cop go after gangsters involved in drugs, cryptocurrencies and online gambling, is directed by Heo Myeong-haeng. Alongside Lee’s fists-first cop, the film co-stars Kim Moo-yeol and Lee Dong-hwi as cruel and ruthless criminals.

“Punishment” follows in a franchise which kicked off in 2017 with “The Outlaws” and was followed by “The Roundup” in 2022 and “The Roundup: No Way Out” in 2023. Lee, who also goes by the name Ma Dong-seok, and is the franchise’s initiator and producer, has previously told Variety that the series is planned to run to eight movies.

“Punishment’s” performance is only slightly behind that of its franchise predecessor. Released in June last year, “The Roundup: No Way Out” earned $21.9 million over the weekend proper and finished its five-day plus previews first weekend with an aggregate of $34.1 million, earned from 4.51 million tickets. The opening weekend market share for “No Way Out” was 88%.

Holding on to a very distant second place chart ranking, “Kung Fu Panda 4” earned $674,000 between Friday and Sunday. It now has a 19-day cumulative of $9.41 million in Korea.

Third place belonged to “Exhuma.” It earned $187,000 over the latest weekend and now has accumulative of $83 million earned from 11.8 million ticket sales, since debuting in cinemas on Feb. 22.

“Challengers” earned $116,000 between Friday and Sunday. Over its full five-day opening run, it earned $173,000.

Below this no other film earned more than $100,000 over the weekend. Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo’s latest effort, fresh from its Silver Bear prize in Berlin, earned $24,000 in its theatrical opening in Korea.