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Korean Box Office Continues Local Power Surge

HONG KONG – South Korea’s box office started 2014 much as it finished 2013 — with local films firmly on top and giving Hollywood cause for reflection. In 2013 the only Hollywood film in the top ten was “Iron Man 3.”

Ticket sales in Korea climbed by 9% from 195 million in 2012 to 213 million in 2013, while the cash box office managed a healthy 7% increase from $1.38 billion (1,455 billion) to $1.47 billion (KRW1,551 billion). Both figures are records.

Data comes from KOBIS, the box office service provided by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).

The continuing strength of mature Asian markets such Korea and Hong Kong (up 4%) – as well as China’s recently confirmed 27% leap — underlines the divergent box office trends of Asia and Europe. Europe’s major territories France and the U.K. were both down in 2013 and Germany is expected report a 2% dip. The Korean theatrical market is some 13% bigger than Germany, despite a population half the size.

The market share for Korean-made films crept ahead from 58.8% in 2012 to 59.7% last year as local films registered a record breaking 127.3 million ticket sales, worth $860 million.

The Korean market share gain came despite a massive surge in the number of foreign films given a release in the country. Total theatrical releases climbed from 631 in 2012 to 890 in 2013, with the number of import films leaping by 55% from 456 to 707. The number of Korean films on release was up less than 5% from 175 in 2012 to 183 last year.

Korean film-makers have been thrilled by the across the board performance of local films. Top of the charts was melodrama “Miracle In Cell No. 7” (pictured) with “Snowpiercer” in second. But neither claimed the all-time record, and only these two penetrated the all-time top ten Korean chart. Rather, more mid-budget titles such as “Secretly Greatly” and “Hide And Seek” connected with audiences.

Among film distributors, CJ Entertainment retained its traditional top spot, with a 22% market share, but its dominance was eroded by the rise of indie Next Entertainment World (N.E.W.) with 17% and Lotte Entertainment on 15.5%. The top Hollywood distributor was the Walt Disney Studios Sony Pictures Releasing joint venture, in fifth place with 10.2% of the box office.

In the Jan. 3-5 opening weekend of 2014 there was a further strong performance from “The Attorney” which sold an additional 1.24 million tickets, pushing its cumulative total to 7.86 million. It topped another pre-Christmas release “The Suspect” which added 542,000 ticket sales for a cume of 3.10 million. Top Hollywood was “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” which sold 236,000 tickets, and an admissions cume of 507,000. That was reported as worth $3.42 million by Fox.

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