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Korean theatrical box office slipped back into its rangebound new normal over the weekend, with nationwide gross takings of just $3.32 million between Friday and Sunday. That suggests that the previous weekend’s $4.7 million total was an exception driven by the Lunar New Year festivities.

Until audiences rediscover an appetite for film in cinemas, and until distributors are ready to release significant new titles the Korean box office appears trapped between $3 million to $4 million per weekend.

That is pushing Korea’s multiplex chains into further pain. With revenues falling by an average of 70% in 2020 all three major operators lost money last year. CJ-CGV’s net loss last year was KRW745 billion ($672 million). Number two chain Lotte Cultureworks recorded a net loss of KRW161 billion ($145 million), while J Contentree, owner of Megabox, lost KRW66 billion ($60 million) at the operating level.

The top title over the latest weekend was new release Korean comedy actioner “Mission: Possible” which earned $1.11 million over the three days, equivalent to 33% market share. In five days since release on Wednesday, “Mission” has earned $1.50 million, according to data from the Korean Film Council’s Kobis tracking service.

Previous winner “Soul” took a tumble of 52% as its score dropped from $1.84 million last week to $894,000 and slipped from first place to second. Since its Jan. 20 release, it has accumulated $14.6 million, making it by far the top-grossing film of the year in 2021.

“Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train,” the year’s second-biggest title, lost one position, falling to third place. Its weekend total of $597,000 was 25% down on the previous weekend. Its cumulative is $6.48 million since release on Jan. 27.

All other films in the market were a significant distance behind the top three. “New Year Blues” took an 85% tumble on the way to earning $103,000 over its second weekend. It has a $1.37 million cumulative.
U.S. new release “I Care A Lot” earned $84,000 in sixth place. Korea’s “Deo Beul Pae Ti” earned $37,000 for a five-day cumulative of $89,000. The Netherlands’ “Marionette” earned $27,000 in tenth place.