A movie theater in Seoul is seen nearly empty Dec. 7. (Yonhap)
The Korean Film Council (KOFIC) said Monday that cinema ticket sales this year are expected to drop 73.3 percent on-year to 510 billion won ($467.54 million), influenced by the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
Local movie theaters’ sales tumbled by 71.2 percent to 498 billion won for the January to November period, from 1.72 trillion won during the same period last year.
It is unlikely that sales will pick up in December, KOFIC said, as the COVID-19 crisis is worsening here with 7,000 new COVID-19 patients diagnosed in November.
December’s sales are forecast to be around 12.3 billion won, according to KOFIC. The estimate was calculated based on the worst fall in sales that took place this year -- in April, when sales declined 93.4 percent from the previous month.
Ticket sales started plummeting in February, after the country’s first COVID-19 case was identified Jan. 20. February’s sales dropped to 62.3 billion won, down 56.6 percent compared with the previous month. In March, sales dropped a further 75.5 percent on-month to 15.2 billion won.
It did not stop there, as the number of COVID-19 patients in Korea reached more than 5,000 in March. Sales plunged to 7.5 billion won in April, reaching the lowest number since KOFIC started keeping records in 2004.
Sales recovered slightly from May to August with the release of some new Korean movies and the US blockbuster “Tenet,” while the virus situation showed some signs of improvement.
But the pandemic’s second wave hit the country in mid-August, followed by a third wave in November, and now local theaters are struggling again.
The outlook for the year-end season is gloomy as the Seoul Metropolitan Government has ordered cinemas in Seoul to close down by 9 p.m. to prevent the further spread of the virus. That means the latest movies have to start by 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, KOFIC added, movie industry export figures have suffered as a result of the pandemic.
As of November the Korean movie industry’s accumulated exports for 2020 were worth around 39.4 billion won, less than half of the corresponding figure for the same period in 2019.
By Song Seung-hyun (email@example.com)