S. Korean box office hits record low in Feb.

March 19, 2021

The number of moviegoers plunged to a record low for February amid the prolonged novel coronavirus pandemic, box office data showed Thursday.

A total of 3.1 million people went to theaters last month, down 57.8 percent from a year earlier, according to the data from the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).

The figure marked the lowest among all February numbers since KOFIC started to compile box office data in 2004.

The box office revenue also tumbled 53.9 percent on-year to 28.7 billion won (US$25.5 million) over the cited period.

In this file photo, a Seoul movie theater is relatively empty on Feb. 24, 2021. (Yonhap)

In this file photo, a Seoul movie theater is relatively empty on Feb. 24, 2021. (Yonhap)

KOFIC said the sharp decline came as tightened social distancing and an absence of new blockbusters kept people from going to cinemas, though the country had the four-day Lunar New Year holiday last month.

The figure, however, was 74.2 percent up from 1.8 million in the previous month while revenue soared 82 percent on-month from 15.8 billion won.

The turnaround was led by two animated films released in late January, Disney-Pixar’s “Soul” and Japan’s “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train.”

The South Korean film industry has been struggling with a yearlong slump in ticket sales amid the pandemic.

In 2020, it posted a record low of 59.5 million in total attendance, plunging 74 percent from a year.

Meanwhile, CJ CGV, South Korea’s leading multiplex chain operator, said that it will raise ticket prices by 1,000 won starting in April, six months after its previous price hike, due to the prolonged pandemic.

Ticket prices for the chain’s ordinary 2D theaters will be 13,000 won on weekdays and 14,000 won on weekends, according to CGV. The changed policy will take effect on April 2.

In October, it raised prices of movie tickets by up to 2,000 won, citing a sharp drop in sales.

The company said it was inevitable to increase the fee because the prolonged pandemic has undermined its balance sheet.

CGV, the cinema affiliate under the wing of entertainment giant CJ Group, posted an operating loss of 392.5 billion won in 2020, swinging from an operating profit of 121.9 billion won the previous year.