A cozy, two-screen, 200-capacity movie theater in Carrolton, Texas, is pioneering an unexpected niche: South Korean films. Established 18 months ago, Cine Oasis screens a new South Korean film every few weeks, including the recent release of the hit Korean political film The King. The theater aims to “bring the community together by offering Korean and Asian movies on the big screen, to open the door for all ethnic groups to enjoy Asian cinema.” The cinema also occasionally screens American films, such as Kung Fu Panda 3, with Korean subtitles.
Carrolton, Texas, is a shopping hub of Korean and Asian culture, with multiple Asian grocery stories and ‘foodie’ experiences. Texas has the fastest growing Korean and Korean American population out of all states in the US, growing by 57.15% between 2010 and 2010, and Korean Americans comprised 8.5% of the Asian American population in the United States in 2015.
Cine Oasis has joined the small list of Asian specialty theaters in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area, including AMC Grapevine Mills, which screens movies from Southern and Eastern Asia like the new Chinese-Indian produced comedy Kung Fu Yoga starring Jackie Chan.
These specialty theaters serve the growing interest in South Korean and Asian films in Dallas-Fort Worth and within the larger United States. Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the US population, increasing by 38.5% from 2005 to 2015. There were approximately 1,248,823 Asians living in the state of Texas in 2015, a significant increases from 726,027 a decade earlier.
While mainly targeting the Korean American population, Cine Oasis’ appeal also extends to non-Asians. There was an upsurge in non-Asians visiting Cine Oasis after the screening of the South Korean zombie thriller Train to Busan last year in July. Nicknamed “Asian Blockbuster Film 2016,” Train to Busan jumped from 20 to over 120 screenings in the US, spreading through word of mouth and English media, and is now being remade in English in the US.
Korean and Asian films clearly have a strong cultural appeal to Americans, and this appeal is likely to continue to grow in the future.
Alison Ma is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington, DC. She is on an exchange program from the University of Sydney, Australia.