×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Korea’s Box Office Faces a Drop in Admissions as Streaming Services Compete

South Korea, the world’s sixth-largest box office territory, roughly on par with France, saw a slow year in 2017. Though it still managed to exceed 200 million admissions for the fifth consecutive year, the growth was not significant: box office revenue was an almost unchanged 1.76 million won ($1.46 billion) earned from some 220 million tickets sold. Compared to the year before, that was slightly up by 3 million.

Over the past few years, a dearth of films managing 2 million-5 million admissions has been an endemic problem. According to the Korean Film Council’s tracking service, Kobis, there were six films in 2017 that hit the 2 million admissions point: “The Prison” (2.93 million); “Memoir of a Murderer” (2.65 million); “The Sheriff in Town” (2.58 million); “Fabricated City” (2.51 million); “New Trial” (2.42 million); and “The Anarchist From Colony” (2.35 million).

That’s an increase from 2016’s four films that managed 2 million or more admissions. “The Fortress” and “I Can Speak” scooped up 3.84 million and 3.27 million admissions, respectively. But that was a decrease from the previous year. Two films, “The King” and “Midnight Runners,” crossed 5 million admissions.

Another issue: higher-budget films that are supposed to garner more tickets are failing to do so, while the number of mid-budget films are not showing growth.

“[In addition to these issues], the number of weeks that hit films stay on top of the box office has continuously decreased, as well as the period that a film takes to reach 70% of its total score,” says Lee Seung-won, head of research center at exhibition chain CJ-CGV. That means whether a film is a success tends to be decided in a shorter amount of time than before.

An analysis of the box office shows that Korean films failed to attract as many audiences as they did in the previous years during the first 11 months of the year, while foreign films did as fine as they normally do. In 2016, the top 20 Korean films attracted almost 85.7 million admissions, while in 2017 films in the same top 20 chart only managed about 77 million admissions.

CJ-CGV’s infographic shows that the key audience group’s purchasing power is decreasing and that they are growing bored with too many crime actioners. Crime dramas accounted for 55% of the top 20 homegrown films, up from 30% in 2016.

“Audiences aged between 30 and 34 dropped to just 14% of visitors, from 15% in 2016, while teenagers fell from 4.3% to 2017’s 2.8%,” says Lee. “Our data shows that the key audience group shows high interest in crime action films, but finds them less satisfying after actually watching them, while audiences in their 50s are growing, and are also showing higher support for trendy crime dramas. But they do not yet compensate for declines in the traditional core group.”

Is lack of diversity in genre terms the only factor that caused the almost-flat box office? Or have other factors, such as streaming services like Netflix, which financed and serviced South Korea’s top director Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” last year, had an impact on the phenomenon? Netflix did not provide an exact number of subscribers in South Korea, but the competition between the streaming giant and the country’s leading multiplexes makes it reasonable to assume that such non-physical screens growth is sure to threaten the traditional exhibition market.

“Of course it is necessary to consider diverse platforms, but before that, I believe what we are in a more urgent need of, at this moment, is a collective effort to maintain and even improve the physical screen-centric exhibition market,” says Jay Choi of Warner Bros.’ local production unit in South Korea.

“Leisure activities such as restaurants and cafes are growing, while visiting a movie theater is not considered a special activity anymore. New methodology will be needed for the audience to come to cinemas in the near future,” Lee says.

(Pictured above: Hyeon Na’s crime drama “The Prison,” one of only six films to manage more than 2 million admissions in Korea in 2017.)

More Biz

  • 'Zootopia' Land Coming to Shanghai Disneyland

    Disney to Open 'Zootopia' Land at Shanghai Theme Park

    The Shanghai Disneyland theme park is to be expanded with the construction of a themed land based on the “Zootopia” animated film and its characters. It will be the first “Zootopia” land at any Disney park worldwide. “The rapid rate of expansion at Shanghai Disney Resort demonstrates our confidence and commitment to the company’s future [...]

  • David Glasser

    David Glasser to Launch $300 Million Shingle With Ron Burkle's Backing (EXCLUSIVE)

    David Glasser, the former chief operating officer of the Weinstein Co., is launching a $300 million film and TV company with the backing of billionaire investor Ron Burkle, Variety has learned. The formation of the production outfit, named 101 Studios, marks a fresh start for Glasser, who was in line to become CEO of the [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York

    Judge Refuses to Pause Weinstein Class Action Case

    A judge on Tuesday denied Harvey Weinstein’s request to put a class action lawsuit on hold pending the outcome of his criminal trial. Ten women have sued Weinstein in federal court in the Southern District of New York, accusing him of violating the federal sex trafficking statute. The suit also alleges that an array of [...]

  • Andrea Ganis Promoted to President of

    Atlantic Records Elevates Andrea Ganis to President of Promotion

    Andrea Ganis has been promoted to the newly created position of president of promotion for Atlantic Records, it was announced today by Atlantic Chairman & COO Julie Greenwald and Chairman & CEO Craig Kallman. In her new role, she will continue to oversee all promotion activities for Atlantic and its subsidiary labels while serving on [...]

  • Roma

    Netflix Joins the Motion Picture Association of America

    UPDATED WASHINGTON — Netflix has joined the Motion Picture Association of America, a move that reflects its evolution as a major player in the movie business. The MPAA currently has six major studios as members, and it collected about $38 million in membership dues in 2017, according to its most recent filing with the IRS. [...]

  • Fate of 'Simpsons' Up in Air

    What Will Happen to 'The Simpsons’ as Disney Takes Over Fox?

    When “The Simpsons” ends its 30th and current season this spring, it will have racked up 663 original episodes — having a season ago passed “Gunsmoke” (635) as the longest-running scripted program in television history. But with the Walt Disney Co.’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox pending, one of TV’s least likely institutions could prove more [...]

  • Best Worst Performances Pink

    Pink, Muse, Chris Stapleton to Headline Citi Sound Vault During Grammy Week

    Pink, Muse and Chris Stapleton will headline Citi Sound Vault, the three-night live-music platform taking place at the Hollywood Palladium during Grammy week. Pink will kick off the Live Nation-produced series on Feb. 7, followed by Muse on Feb. 9 and Stapleton on Grammy night, the 10th. “This will be my first time performing at the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content