SEOUL — South Korea’s B.O. dipped worryingly in November, partly due to the end of ticket discount schemes and a poor lineup of local movies.
Admissions in the Seoul metropolitan region totaled 2.79 million, an 11% drop compared with the same month last year, and down 31% from October, according to the Korean Film Council (Kofic).
November is often a slow month at the South Korean B.O. but November 2006 is on course to be the weakest of this year.
Discount schemes that took Won 2,000 ($2.20) off the price of a $7.66 ticket were offered to cinemagoers by mobile phone companies, including SK Telecom, KTF and LG Telecom.
Previously the phone companies paid 70% of the discount to theater chains as compensation, but after the hardtops asked for reimbursement in full, the schemes were axed.
Price sensitivity seems high in South Korea, especially in the youth market that has swelled auds in recent years.
One survey conducted by Daejon YMCA showed 63% of Daejon residents were less likely to go to the movies in the absence of discounts schemes. Another survey by Internet portal Daum put that figure at 81%.
The phone companies’ schemes ended in July, but string of must-see films released in late summer and early fall, including “The Host” and “Tazza: The High Rollers,” may have masked the effect.
In thinner November, admissions normally rise after national college entrance exams are finished. This year they took an 11% dip, according to Max Movie, a specialist portal that also sells tickets online.
Industryites have also pointed to a particularly weak selection of movies on offer.
“Love Me Not,” “Sexy Teacher” and “How the Lack of Love Affects Two Men,” have all flopped and, of the November releases, only “Sunflower” scored more than one million ticket sales nationwide.
“The Devil Wears Prada” and local pic “Righteous Ties” were the strongest holdovers from October.
Theatrical success is of greater importance in South Korea than in many other territories, as ancillary markets are weak. Home entertainment is crippled by online piracy; TV sector does not pay big bucks for movies.
However, cinema chains may not be too worried by the November dip if more people are paying fuller prices. Discounting had reached challenging proportions. Discounts from the phone companies could sometimes be combined with those from credit card firms and nationwide retail chains to cut the price close to zero for clever consumers.
Even taking into account November’s dip, admissions in Seoul are up 9% at 45.1 million, compared with 41.5 million in the first 11 months of 2005.