South Korean cinemas are anticipating a boost from Monday (Nov. 1, 2021) as the country moves to a policy of living with the COVID-19 coronavirus.
In the last weekend before the policy’s implementation “Dune” and “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” swapped positions at the top of the Korean box office. “Dune” rose to first place in its second weekend of release.
“Dune,” which was released on Oct. 20, dropped by only 12% in its second weekend. It recorded $2.25 million, for an 11-day cumulative of $6.86 million, according to data from Kobis, the box office tracking service operated by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).
“Venom 2” took a steeper tumble of 45% in its third week of release, and added $1.65 million over the weekend. Since its Oct. 13 outing in Korea, it has accumulated $16.7 million.
Third place over the weekend belonged to new release “Ron’s Gone Wrong” with $485,000 over the weekend and $644,000 over its opening five days.
None of the scores were representative of the kinds of performance that made South Korea the world’s fourth largest box office market in 2019. The nationwide aggregate was an anemic $5.08 million. That is only half of the best-scoring weekends earlier this year and a small fraction of the pre-pandemic era.
Help could be on its way now that the South Korean government has moved to a new “living with COVID-19” policy, which will see the lifting of many restrictions on daily life. These will be introduced in three stages of up to six weeks, the government said on Friday.
While COVID-19 has not been eliminated, it is increasingly being treated as endemic. There have been some 2,000 new cases per day for the past four days.
According to the Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), 75.3% of the population is now fully-vaccinated. And booster shots will begin to be available from later this month.
In response, CGV, the country’s largest multiplex operator, will begin operating so-called ‘vaccine pass theaters’ in more than 20% of its premises from Monday. Lotte Cinema, the number two chain, will follow from Wednesday.
These halls will require spectators to prove that they are fully-vaccinated, by showing a certificate available on an app. Mask-wearing will remain a requirement, but these theaters will no longer have to operate at reduced capacity. Additionally, the 10pm curfew will now be scrapped.
This week also sees the revival of a generous cinema ticket discount scheme operated by KOFIC. The vouchers offer KRW6,000 ($5.10) price reductions in 521 cinemas (excluding premium format venues) with everyone allowed two downloads.