‘Perhaps Love’ Wins Korea Box Office Weekend as Cinemas Lose $100 Million in Latest Quarter

Perhaps Love
Courtesy of KOFIC

Box office takings in South Korea retreated over the weekend, despite a local film taking the top spot. This year has seen a dearth of local movies releasing in cinemas, though that shortage may be reversed in the coming months.

Local comedy drama film “Perhaps Love” was the biggest film of the weekend. It earned $2.09 million from 1,192 screens, according to data from Kobis, the tracking service operated y the Korean Film Council (Kofic), and deposed Marvel franchise film “Eternals,” which earned $1.94 million from a larger 1,257 screen combination.

Following a Wednesday release, “Perhaps Love” racked up an opening five-day total of $2.87 million. It was directed by Choi Eun-ji and stars the reliable Ryu Seung-ryong.

“Eternals” was released on Nov. 3 and had a strong opening session. After three weekends, it has now amassed a cumulative of $25.1 million. That figure makes it the third highest grossing film of 2021 in Korea, while its momentum means it is poised to soon overtake “Black Widow”. The top film of the year remains Korea-made “Escape From Mogadishu,” with $29 million from a July outing.

In third place over the latest weekend “Dune” captured a further $883,000, lifting its cumulative to $12.2 million since its Oct. 20 release. Its weekend score decreased only 25% compared with the previous session.

Fourth place belonged to Korean-made crime-action film “Tomb of the River,” which debuted in second spot a week earlier and this time earned $378,000. After 12 days, “Tomb” has a cumulative total of $2.46 million.

New-release title “Dear Evan Hansen” opened on Wednesday and achieved fifth place over the weekend with $368,000 earned from 621 screens, and a five-day cumulative of $627,000. “The French Dispatch” released on Thursday and collected $237,000 form 273 screens over the weekend, and $354,000 over four days.

Overall, nationwide box office declined from $8.08 million during the previous weekend, to $6.65 million in the latest session.

Local media report that major Korean films will go ahead with releases in time for Christmas or the lunar new year holidays in early February. Prominent among these are political drama “Kingmaker,” which has been sitting on the shelf since 2019 and will now attempt a release in December. So too will romance “Happy New Year.”

“Emergency Declaration,” which had its premiere in Cannes in July, crime drama “The Policeman’s Lounge” and action comedy sequel “The Pirates: Goblin Flag” have all signaled January 2022 releases.

The lack of local releases this year has reversed the normal dominance of Korean films at the Korean box office. KOBIS data shows that Korean films earned a combined $124 million over the January to October period, down 51% even on a miserable 2020. Because of the uncertainty of releasing during COVID-times, many Korean films have either delayed their theatrical plans or abandoned them in favor of a streaming release.

In contrast, Hollywood studio titles have been released in Korean theaters according to schedules determined with less regard to Korean public health and theatrical conditions. The combined sales of foreign-made film over the first ten months of 2021 increased by 71% compared with the same period in 2020, and revenues hit $244 million.

The massively lower levels of business continues to be reflected in the financial performance of Korean multiplex chains. In the July to September quarter, the biggest chain CJ-CGV lost $65.7 million, though quarterly revenues were up by 4% year-on-year. Number two chain, Lotte Cultureworks recorded losses of $27.1 million in the quarter, down from $52 million a year earlier. J Contentree, operator of the Megabox circuit, saw losses increase slightly to $13.6 million.