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Construction has begun in Seoul’s Chungmuro district on a complex that will house a museum, film archives and screening rooms. Chungmuro is the old center of Korea’s film industry, akin to Hollywood in Los Angeles, or Soho in London.

In recent years, much of the Korean industry has moved to newer premises south of the Han River, including the trendy Gangnam district. Korea’s national government is intent on further relocating the film industry to Busan, where the country’s biggest film festival is sited, and where it has transferred the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) and the Media Ratings Board. Given that delocalization pressure, the Seoul Cinematheque, then is a project backed by the Seoul city authorities.

They estimate that the facility will cost $22.5 million to build. They aim to complete construction, on what was previously a public car park, by March 2022. As a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, authorities cancelled a symbolic breaking ground ceremony that they had planned.

The city government said that it likened the project to the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris and New York’s Film Forum.

On completion, the 13-story venue will house three non-commercial theaters of different sizes, a film museum and archives, film media center, cafe and a bookstore. Rooftop screenings for 150 spectators are also a possibility.

The Yonhap news agency reported that the public will be able to screen old films, rent video equipment and produce their own movies. Film production classes may also be on offer.

  • The Cinematheque announcement came the same week as KOFIC announced that South Korean box office in January plunged to an 8-year low. Only 16.8 million people visited movie theaters during the month. Public fear about the spread of the new coronavirus is understood to be a factor keeping people away.