Admissions up 6% from 2004; revs up to about $130 mil

After its ninth consecutive year of growth, South Korea’s theatrical market has edged past Germany’s, with an estimated 143 million admissions and $890 million in box office receipts.

Germany notched up 121.3 million admissions and $870 million in B.O. coin.

Admissions were up 6% on 2004’s 135 million, while a strengthening of the Korean currency saw revenues jump close to $130 million in dollar terms.

Nonetheless, moribund ancillary markets and one of the highest rates of Internet piracy in the world dampened profits in the territory.

According to a report issued by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), local films continued their run of strength with an estimated 59% nationwide market share.

Detailed figures were provided for the Seoul region only, where Korean films took 55%, Hollywood films 38.8%, Europe 2.3%, Japan 2.0% and China 1.4%.

Local major CJ Entertainment topped Seoul distributor rankings with 22% of the market and Showbox/Mediaplex with 20%, followed by Warners, Cinema Service, Fox and UIP.

Showbox had the top three grossing films of the year with Korean War drama “Welcome to Dongmakgol” ($49.2 million), comedy “Marrying the Mafia 2″ ($34.8 million), and drama “Marathon” ($31.9 million).

Warner Bros. took 10.5% of the market for third place, boosted by “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” at $21.8 million and the surprising strength of “The Island” at $21.1 million.

Box office for much of the first half of 2005 came in behind the level of the previous year, however an unusually strong autumn season pushed admissions ahead for the year as a whole.

Per-capita admissions reached a 30-year high of 2.95, while the number of screens increased from 1,451 to 1,634. Screen count has more than doubled since 2000 due to heavy multiplex construction, although measured in terms of seat count the increase has been considerably more modest.

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