“We need to wait 30 minutes.”
She spoke as she checked the screen time on the movie tickets. They were going to watch a family movie that was released ten days ago. The story was about a man who passed away protecting his family even after his death. Although it sounded like a heavy topic, it was said that the director pulled it off in a comedic way. Although the scores of that movie weren't that good online, she always took her time to watch movies that were related to familial love. Although she preferred crime thrillers over comedies and plays over movies, she always fell apart in front of ‘familiar love’. She thought that it must be because of her longing for her father.
“Let’s go down and look at some clothes.”
“...Can’t I wait here?”
She dragged Maru by the arm. Maru, who was sitting on the sofa in front of the ticketing counter, had to stand up against his will.
“We have to wait 30 minutes anyway. It’s better to look around rather than staying here.”
Dragging Maru who was even groaning to protest that he didn’t want to go, she went downstairs on the escalator. The fourth floor was filled with clothing stores. There were many bright-colored clothes for the coming summer. Just as she looked around amidst the clothes that gave off a new smell, she turned around her head. She saw Maru intently watching something a few steps away from her. She wondered what he was looking at and walked to where he was. She then saw that Maru was looking at a mannequin, to be exact, the swimsuit that the mannequin was wearing which made her frown.
“I think this will look good on you.”
She pinched Maru’s arm and immediately left that place. She didn’t realize he would just stare at a woman’s swimsuit. She remembered seeing that the employee was giving him strange glances so her face became hot.
“I think a bikini is good.”
“What the heck are you saying?”
“We should go to the beach this summer. We couldn’t go last year because we were too busy, but we should be able to go this year. Two days and one night. How about it?”
“I’m not going.”
“What do you mean ‘why’?”
As they walked around on the 4th floor, Maru stopped whenever he saw a mannequin wearing a swimsuit and started evaluating it, while she had to work hard stopping him from doing so. After a few rounds, it dawned on her. Maybe he was doing this on purpose?
“You’re protesting because I dragged you here, aren’t you?”
“You just realized?” Maru smirked.
She shook her head.
“But when I said it will look good on you, I meant it.”
She had to admit that she couldn’t win against him with words. He always attacked her soft spot, and when she tried to fight back, she would find herself talking about embarrassing things. There was only one way to win - to not say anything.
She locked her hand with Maru’s right hand. Then she dragged him so that he couldn’t stray away from her. She thought that he shouldn’t be able to say strange words if she was right next to him.
However, Maru was much more evil than she had expected. For one, he blatantly asked the store employees ‘doesn’t this look like it will look good on my girlfriend?’ and the like, and he even stared at clothes in the underwear store.
She had lost. There was no way she could win against this huge pervert. She rotated her arm to see her watch. It was about time the movie began.
“Fine, let’s go.”
She dragged Maru and went upstairs. She showed the tickets to the employee in charge of checking tickets before being guided by him. They followed the dimly-lit corridor until they reached screen 5.
“There aren’t that many people.”
“A blockbuster movie was just released so people should be flocking to that,” Maru spoke as he sat down.
A movie that aired at the same time was a huge action movie with dozens of billions of won of investment, so it wasn’t that surprising.
“I wonder why American movies require so much budget.”
“I think the casting of the actors accounts for more than half of it.”
She hadn’t heard about this before as she knew nothing regarding the movie industry. When she looked at him, Maru continued explaining.
“Shooting for special effects, blocking roads, and casting extras might require some money, but if you don’t account for the Hollywood star actors, you’ll be left with less than half the budget.”
“Then casting them cost billions?”
“No, you need to add one more zero.”
“You’re talking about all the actors combined, right?”
“No, casting a single named actor costs more than ten billion. The movie airing on the screen next to us is a sequel. I believe casting the main actor for it cost 20 billion won.”
A small-scale play could be created under 10 million won if it didn’t cost that much. Of course, that did not account for renting the theaters.
In any case, ten million won seemed like a lot of money, yet Hollywood actors received several times, no, several hundred times that much, so she couldn’t believe it.
“If it costs that much, is there really a reason to cast those actors? If it was me, I would have invested more in something else. I would have cast other actors and have created a better stage.”
She was slightly angry even. As she prepared for plays and studied them, she knew how hard the lives of those in the industry were. However, although this was another country, casting an actor could cost dozens of billions?
Maru faintly smiled at her words. His smile wasn’t that of sympathy.
“What you said definitely makes sense. If casting the actors didn’t cost that much, they would be able to support other areas better, and would be able to create better-quality movies. However, a movie is not just art, it is business. In business, you invest a lot of money to use something or someone that has proved their worth. That is because they’re sure to return the investment in the form of profit. Above all, there’s the fact that you can’t really put a price tag on people. For us, 10 million dollars sounds like a lot, but the producers of the movie might think that it’s actually quite cheap. The movie airing on the screen next to us is like that as well. The prequel was a huge hit in the world, wasn’t it? Of course, the producers would want to use that popularity to create a sequel. To do that, you would need to cast the main character from the prequel, and the actor, who knows that the producers want him or her, can ask for a high price. How much do you think they spent to cast the main character in the prequel?”
Hearing Maru’s question, she thought about it for a while. Since it was 20 billion in the sequel, the prequel must be similar, right?
“Perhaps around 17 billion, considering that it rose a little in the sequel?”
“No, it was only 2 billion.”
“Then it became ten times larger in the sequel?”
“But they still cast that person? Even when they had to pay ten times as much?”
“It’s because they can’t do without that actor for that specific movie. There is also the fact that other actors do not want to take the role of a character with a fixed identity. I would be the same, you know? If the director told me ‘you play that role because we failed to negotiate with the previous actor’, I would refuse on the spot. The risk is just too big. Moreover, that movie is also a Hollywood movie which is aired across the entire globe.”
“...So that’s how it is.”
“The role is unique to that specific actor now. I guess that’s what people mean when they say someone is irreplaceable.”
She was shocked by the astronomical sum for a brief moment before turning her head around to Maru.
“You’re quite knowledgeable on this stuff.”
“I have to. That’s the industry I’m striving for in the future.”
She gave a glance at Maru who was leaning back on his chair.
Although he was very sneaky and played pranks a lot at times, he was very mature when it came to matters related to her. It wasn’t that he was trying to look good in front of her. His words had conviction, so she fell for his words when she listened to them.
So Maru was seriously considering his future career. She, too, had the dream that she wanted to be in the acting industry in the future. She was making her own efforts into striving for it as well. However, she felt uneasy because she felt like she was too behind when compared to Maru.
As the eras changed, the debut age in the entertainment industry kept decreasing. For idols, they say that becoming trainees at middle school age was too late. Actors were not that much different. It was an era where people started acting from childhood, became better during their youth, and become acknowledged when they mature.
She thought about the actors she liked as well as their age when they debuted. Although there were people that became successful after debuting late, most of them started their career at a young age.
She suddenly had the thought that perhaps it was too late for her. Maru, who was sitting next to her, had already entered a contract with a company already. Not just any company, but JA Production, which was led by a master in the acting industry, Lee Junmin.
She didn’t feel that much of a gap when they were preparing for a play together in Myeongdong, but right now, Maru felt like he was far ahead of her, which made her feel strange. He was so close, yet he felt so distant.
At that moment, Maru softly grabbed her hand. It was as though he had read her mind; as though there was no need for her to be that worried.
“Just because you’re slow doesn’t mean you’re late. And you’re not slow right now either. There’s no need to be in a hurry. I was just a little luckier than you.”
His caring words comforted her. She smiled and leaned on Maru’s shoulder. She wanted to stay like this for the time being.
Just in time, the commercials ended and the cinema darkened. The curtains fell a little with a machine noise. Feeling comfortable, she decided to lean on Maru’s shoulder for a little more. Her hand, held by Maru, felt warm.
‘Maybe I’m relying on him?’
Although she asked herself that question, she was already aware of the answer. Maru was definitely different compared to the others of his age. To compare him to something, he was analogous to a streetlamp that stood there throughout the ages. People would walk under that streetlamp all the time without noticing it, yet when it became dark, the streetlamp couldn’t be any more reassuring. She smiled when she thought that he was a man that would scatter light on her no matter how stormy the weather was.
After the movie started, she focused on the movie. There was a warm family. They couldn’t look happier. However, as the music heightened, the uneasy face of the husband foreshadowed that an unfortunate event was about to happen, and soon, the husband died due to an accident. The depressing monotone funeral passed by in a flash. As this was supposed to be a romantic comedy movie, the sad part wasn’t that long.
Despite that though, she felt a tingle on her nose and felt like crying. She suddenly wanted to have a look at Maru’s expression. Would he be making a sad face right now? From what she knew of him, she thought that he would be analyzing the movie.
She turned around slightly and looked at Maru.
The light reflecting off the screen was flickering faintly within Maru’s pupils. There was a reason why it was ‘faintly’ flickering. It was because Maru was crying. He was crying a lot. He just didn’t make any noise, but his cry looked like he was screaming his heart out, which made her look at him absent-mindedly.
The ever-sturdy boyfriend looked too feeble right now, and felt like he would shatter like glass with a single touch.
Subconsciously, she grabbed Maru’s hand with both of her hands. Then, she grabbed it tightly to the point that it might hurt a little. Maru flinched and looked back at her. He started wiping off his tears in a rush as though he didn’t even realize that he was crying.
Why did he cry?
She wanted to ask, but decided not to. Instead, she held his hand tighter, so that he could rely on her more when he felt weak and feeble. Whether he found her reliable, she didn’t know, but… she didn’t want to stay still.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
It was strange. She did not know why she said such words. However, there was one thing she was sure of. It was that those words didn’t come from her head, nor her heart, but somewhere much more distant than that, yet it was herself. She smiled and wiped Maru’s face.
Only then did Maru make a faint smile.
That was his answer.Previous Chapter Next Chapter