By Kim Boram
SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) -- As the South Korean movie industry is on its way to get out of the yearslong COVID-19 pandemic, sequels to hit local films are spearheading the move to bring moviegoers back to theaters.
Released Wednesday, the Korean action comedy "The Roundup," a sequel to the 2017 hit "The Outlaws," is one of the most-anticipated films in the first quarter for the return of actor Ma Dong-seok as Detective Ma Seok-do.
In the film, Seok-do heads to Vietnam to extradite a suspect only to find out about additional murder cases involving an unknown killer who had committed crimes against tourists for many years.
The movie is expected to become a box-office hit, as its presale tickets had amounted to 310,000 as of 8 a.m. on the first day of its release. This marked the highest score since the Oscar-winning "Parasite" posted more than 500,000 presold tickets on the day of its release in May 2019.
Its predecessor, "The Outlaws," garnered 6.9 million Korean moviegoers that year and became the third best-selling R-rated Korean film of all time.
The larger-than-expected success of the first film and the rising popularity of the movie star also known as Don Lee helped create a homegrown superhero franchise based on his trademark character who clamps down on rule-breakers with his unstoppable power.
Ma, who also participated in "The Roundup" project as a producer, said earlier in a press conference that he is planning to make six more sequels.
The mystery action horror film "The Witch: Part 2. The Other One," set to hit local screens on June 15, is a follow-up to "The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion," which was a small success at the local box office, selling 3.18 million tickets in 2018.
The series is about a girl with an unknown power who is the only survivor at an abandoned secret laboratory being chased by mysterious people.
The female superhero series was designed for a total of five films by director Park Hoon-jung, who made the hit action crime film "New World" (2013).
The historical war film "Hansan," directed by Kim Han-min, will be coming in July.
It is the second film of Kim's trilogy about battles led by Admiral Yi Sun-shin during the Japanese invasions of Korea in the late 16th century. The 2014 film "Roaring Currents," the most-viewed film in South Korea with a total of 17.6 million spectators, was the first of the series.
"Hansan" depicts the historical Battle of Hansan, which took place years before the Battle of Myeongnyang Strait in "Roaring Currents."
A follow-up installment of the 2017 action film "Confidential Assignment," which attracted 7.8 million moviegoers, will also be shown in July.
Starring the same actors, including Hyun Bin and Yoo Hae-jin, "Confidential Assignment 2: International" tells a story of trilateral cooperation between the two Koreas and the United States to catch international criminals.
The homegrown sequel films jumping off the popularity of their original films are expected to stimulate local moviegoers' appetite and lure them to theaters, which were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But experts noted that movie sequels do not always do as well at the box office as the original.
The fantasy blockbuster "The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure," released in January, posted 1.3 million in attendance, while its first installment "The Pirates" (2017) posted 8.6 million people.