One of the surprise box office success stories of 2015 is “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
The comic adaptation spy thriller starring Colin Firth and directed by Matthew Vaughn (“X-Men: First Class”) got strong reviews and surprised Fox when it opened second at the U.S. box office its opening weekend with a solid $41 million take, especially up against the much anticipated “Fifty Shades of Grey” over Presidents Day weekend.
But that pales in comparison to the impact the movie has made on the people of South Korea.
The film opened in South Korea in mid-February and has since earned $40 million, making it the film’s highest-grossing market abroad (behind the UK and Australia). It is also the top R-rated title from the States to show there since 2006’s “300” and the biggest Fox earner there since “Avatar.”
So why do so many South Koreans love well-dressed Englishmen kicking butt?
It seems Fox capitalized on a few headline-grabbing incidents that recently went on in the country that have since spiraled into viral sensations.
According to The Wrap, the Fox marketing team in South Korea used local incidents in which the wealthy were abusing their power — like when the vice-chairwoman of Korean Air ordered the plane she was on to turn around so that she could kick off the crew member who served her nuts in a plastic bag instead of on a plate — in the marketing of the film.
“We decided to take advantage of this and made three viral videos similar to real-life incidents to promote the film,” Tom Oh, one of Fox’s top men in Korea, told The Wrap. “Everything came together to create a massive hit.”
The campaign got so big in South Korea that it was parodied on the country’s equivalent of “Saturday Night Live,” "SNL Korea," where the host, South Korean singer Haha, spoofed the movie.
Here's a parody of the "Kingsman" poster used on the show.
Here's the real poster.
In “Kingsman,” the film focuses on a young man with a troubled home life who is recruited by Firth to become part of an elite spy team.
"While class struggles are prevalent in all countries, the national dissatisfaction combined with a hip, stylish and fun film about an underdog succeeding made for a perfect film for audiences to release stress,” Fox’s Tom Oh told The Wrap.
"Kingsman" has become so big in South Korea, in fact, that since the film opened, one department store saw sales for its double-breasted suits raise 64% in February.
We'll see if the film's popularity in South Korea will spread to China, where the film opens next week.
Here's one of the promo videos.