Local films achieved 37% share of box office

SEOUL — Local films continued their recent downward trend at the local box office for the first half of the year.

But there was also good news, as sales of Korean films to the U.S. and elsewhere improved.

Local films achieved a 37% share of the first half’s box office, according to the Korean Film Council.

In the Seoul market, Korean movies were down nearly seven percentage points from the equivalent period last year.

However exports, as measured by minimum guarantees paid by foreign licensees to Korean sales companies, grew by 37% from $7.45 million to $10.2 million.

The Seoul box office was up 8%, though theatrical admissions up only 0.9% from 2007 due to increased ticket prices as theaters and mobile phone companies cut back their discount programs.

For the first half of 2008, 50 Korean films were released with five making it into the box office top 10.

“The Chaser,” which took No. 1 spot with 5.07 million admissions, and “Forever the Moment” (previously known “Women’s Handball Team”) scored strongly at the beginning of the year the first quarter. But in the second quarter, the tide of Hollywood blockbusters headed by “Iron Man” took over.

In the nationwide market, U.S. movies took a 54% market share, European pics 4.4%, Chinese films 2.9%, and Japanese films 0.9%.

Over the past two years, exports have been sinking. But this year, sales of Korean films to North America increased from $154,000 in the first half of 2007 to $2.84 million, totaling 28% of total exports. Figures were boosted by the remake deals for “The Chaser” and “Seven Days” as well as an increase in home video rights sales.

Asia, up 18% to $4.85 million, still represents the biggest market for Korean films. Importantly, exports to Japan were up 16% to $2.56 million, while sales to France dropped 77% to $416,000. In total exports to Europe stood at $2.21 million.

Among distributors, CJ Entertainment, which now handles local films and movies from DreamWorks Animation and Paramount, dominated again, accounting for a third of the market.

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