Korean Box Office Flat in 2016 Despite Local Hits

Theatrical box office in South Korea grew by less than 2% in 2016 to KRW1.74 trillion. That was despite the performance by local films which had an outstanding year in critical terms and on international release.

Korean films accounted for eight of the top ten chart places, with the year’s only 10-million admissions title “Train to Busan” on top of the chart. “Train” became the ninth largest film of all time in terms of ticket sales. (“Avatar” is the only foreign film in all time top ten.) That helped Korean-made films cement their leading market share. They finished the year with a 53.7% of box office.

Some 217 million tickets were sold in 2016, which is almost the same as the number that was sold in the previous year. It was the sixth year in a row that admissions have topped 200 million. In dollar terms the value of the total Korean box office was unchanged at $1.44 billion.

With some 334 new Korean films released (up from 257,) homegrown titles accounted for 117 million admissions, the fifth year in a row that they have exceeded 100 million ticket sales.

Foreign films saw a 2.4% drop in ticket sales (from 104 million admissions in 2015 to 100 million in 2016). That caused a 2.5% decrease in their box office gross to KRW 815 billion ($673 million).

Genre movies with high-profile directors and actors involved performed strongly. Starring some of the country’s top actors Hwang Jung-min and Gang Dong-won, crime buddy film “A Violent Prosecutor,” and Kim Jee-woon’s Oscars contender “The Age of Shadows” took second and fourth places.

“Captain America: Civil War,” in third place, was the top foreign movie of the year. Apart from “Civil War,” only “Doctor Strange” made the top ten.

The top 3 distributors were unchanged from the previous year. CJ Entertainment held on to its usual top place with a 16% market share, earned from a total of 22 releases including “Operation Chromite,” “The Handmaiden” and “Kung Fu Panda 3,” ahead of Showbox on 15% (in the first 11 months of 2015) from 10 titles including “Prosecutor” and “Tunnel.” Walt Disney Korea took third spot with 14%, earned from 10 releases, up from 2015’s seventh spot.

The total number of films that enjoyed theatrical releases grew 29% from an already high 1,203 in 2015 to a record 1,555 in 2016. Foreign film releases increased from 946 to 1,221.

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