(LEAD) Coronavirus deals a blow to S. Korean box office

February 24, 2020

 South Korean movie theaters saw the lowest number of visitors for January since 2013, data has shown, as growing fears over the contagious disease led people to stay at home.

According to a report by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) released on Thursday, a total of 16.84 million people went to theaters last month, down 7.1 percent from a year ago.

Total revenue also slipped 4.9 percent on-year to 143.7 billion won (US$117.9 million).

The decline came as people have refrained from going to cinemas amid the rapid spread of COVID-19 virus infections.

Since the first coronavirus case in South Korea was confirmed on Jan. 20, the country had reported a total of 833 confirmed patients, with seven deaths, as of Monday evening.

In particular, the number of ticket sales reached 1.1 million over the final weekend of January, compared to 1.5 million moviegoers tallied on June 5-6, 2015, when the country was suffering from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak.

The downbeat trend of the monthly number of moviegoers is expected to continue in February as weekend ticket sales dropped to some 475,000 over last weekend.

Meanwhile, local film distributors have postponed their scheduled film releases.

Little Big Pictures said that it has put off the opening of its upcoming thriller “Time to Hunt,” directed by Yoon Sung-hyun, which was originally scheduled to hit local screens on Wednesday.

The distributors of “Innocence,” “Call” and “Onward” also rescheduled their releases for April.

A theater in Busan on Feb. 22, 2020 (Yonhap)

A theater in Busan on Feb. 22, 2020 (Yonhap)