The box office outlook in South Korea, which last year was the world’s fourth largest theatrical market, turned from bad to worse. Gross revenues over the weekend dropped to just $2.24 million, a slump of 40% compared with the already depressed $3.70 million total of the weekend before.

In the intervening period cinemas in the Greater Seoul area have been required to increase social distancing measures and cut their seating capacity, as a reaction to the latest surge in coronavirus cases.

From Tuesday, Seoul was placed under Level 2 restrictions on a scale of 1 to 4 of virus response. Cinemas can stay open, though many other indoor activities are banned for a week, and private groups cannot exceed more than 10 people.

Additionally, it emerged that another batch of films that had previously been targeting a theatrical release have now decided on a direct to streaming approach instead. These include the much anticipated “Space Sweepers,” mystery thriller “The Call” and comedy “What Happened to Mr. Cha?” which will all now be released by Netflix.

The top film in Korean cinemas over the weekend was new release action comedy “Best Friend” starring Jung Woo and the ever reliable Oh Dal-su. It earned $1.01 million for a 45% market share. Since release on Nov. 25, it has a gross of $1.55 million.

American horror film “Freaky” was the weekend’s other significant release, but it failed to scare up much business. It limped into fourth place with just $170,000 and less than 20,000 tickets sold.
Previous top-ranking film “Collectors” slipped back to second place with $341,000. Since its Nov 4. outing, the Seoul-set treasure hunt film has grossed $11.4 million.

U.S. film “Run” slipped from second place to third. It grossed $309,000 over the weekend, for a running cumulative of $1.61 million since Nov. 20. Long-running Korean comedy “Samjin Company English Class” took fifth place, extending its cumulative to $12.5 million since Oct. 21.