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‘Eternals’ Opening Gives Korea its Biggest Box Office Weekend of 2021

Makkari Lauren Ridloff Eternals
Sophie Mutevelian / Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Marvel movie “Eternals” enjoyed the biggest opening weekend of any film this year in South Korea. It came as some Korean cinemas moved towards near to normal operation.

“Eternals” earned $10.2 million between Friday and Sunday, and fully $14.3 million in its five opening days, according to data from Kobis, the box office tracking service operated by the Korean Film Council (Kofic).

Playing on 2,650 screens, “Eternals” accounted for 82.4% of the nationwide weekend box office. In terms of admissions, the film achieved 1.61 million ticket sales in five days.

The film’s powerhouse opening lifted the nationwide aggregate weekend box office to $13.1 million. That is the highest-scoring box office weekend in Korea this year.

In contrast “The Legend of Shang-Chi” opened with $4.76 million over the Chuseok holiday weekend. In July, “Black Widow” debuted with a similar screen count and earned $8.82 million over its opening weekend (and $12.1 million over its opening five days). The “Black Widow” weekend total was $11.0 million.

The Korean cinema industry had been subject to COVID-19 restrictions that included seating restrictions, bans on food and drink, and curfews that curtailed evening screenings.

Cinemas have responded by creating ‘vaccine pass theaters’ for patrons who can prove that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Kofic has also reinstated its discount coupon scheme in order to bring audiences back into cinemas.

With a very high per capita rate of attendance, Korea had been the world’s fourth biggest box office market in pre-COVID times, ranking only behind North America, China and Japan. But nervous patrons stayed away in droves distributors of Korean movies, which rely heavily on theatrical box office for their returns, canceled or delayed the release of many local titles.

Following ticket sales of 227 million in 2019, the number of spectators plunged to 59.5 million in 2020. The total to date in 2021 is 47.6 million, according to Kobis.

Over the latest weekend “Dune” placed second with $1.18 million for a $9.01 million total since release on Oct. 20, 2021. “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” earned $421,000 in third place, for a cumulative of $17.4 million since debuting on Oct. 13.

Two films that opened in competition with “Eternals” did minuscule amounts of business. “Seberg” earned $50,500 in five days. “The United States vs Billie Holliday” took $36,000 over five days for tenth place.