SEOUL, South Korea -- For once, South Koreans are flocking to theaters for a homegrown movie, and the spy thriller's splashy success is cheering a domestic film industry in retreat from Hollywood's dominance.

"Swiri," about the intrigue between North and South Korea, attracted 1.4 million patrons in Seoul alone in its first 30 days -- surpassing the previous high of 850,000 drawn by "Titanic."Theaters are sold out days in advance, and moviegoers are happily packing into long lines to get in. The movie's popularity has even produced a run on a fish featured in the story, pet shop owners say.

"We hope this will be a turning point for all Korean movies," said "Swiri" director Kang Jae-kyu, who expresses surprise at the box office boom.

The movie's success comes amid an uphill battle by local producers to widen their share of South Korea's $170 million-a-year cinema business.

For years, the government has tried to protect South Korean movies with a quota system that requires theaters to show domestic films at least 106 days a year, nearly 30 percent of the time.

Even with the quota, Korean movies took only 25 percent of ticket receipts last year, while Hollywood had 75 percent. And Washington is demanding the quota be abolished or phased out as an unfair trade practice.

Local producers, actors and actresses have argued that ending the quota would smother the local industry, and now are hoping "Swiri" will encourage investment in the domestic film industry.

" 'Swiri's' success is great news for us," said Yang Ki-hwan, a spokesman for the Motion Picture Producers' Association of Korea. "We believe it will definitely help Korean movies in general."

Movie critics say the domestic industry's problem isn't artistic. They note Korean producers have made internationally acclaimed artistic films, but say local moviemakers have hurt themselves by skimping on bread-and-butter action films.