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Korean Moviegoers Surpassed 14 million in May 2022, Returning to Pre-COVID-19

Jun 07, 2022
  • Writerby Hellen Park
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The Highest Number of Audiences in 28 months Since January 2020, When It Recorded 16.84 Million Viewers Just Before the Pandemic



In May 2022, the Korean theater district returned to its pre-COVID-19 level. According to the Korean Box Office Information System (KOBIS) of the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) on June 1 (Wed), the number of moviegoers for 1 month from May 1 to 31 was 14.55 million. It’s a signal of hope that the number of viewers has almost recovered to the same level before the COVID-19 Pandemic.


In February 2020, the number of Korean moviegoers dropped sharply as the Pandemic spread in Korea. From January to June 2020, the total number of moviegoers recorded 32.41 million, the lowest since 2005. Considering that the number of audiences was 16.84 million in January 2020, just before the Pandemic, the total number of audiences from February to June 2020 was smaller than the number of audiences for just 1 month in January. 


For the next two years, the Korean theater district was almost like a pause. The number of audiences, which reached 227 million in 2019 before COVID-19, fell 73.1% year on year to 59.52 million in 2020. In 2021, the stagnation continued with 60.53 million viewers in total. Total sales of the Korean film industry in 2019, which reached 2.5093 trillion won (USD 2,002 million), plunged to 1.537 trillion won (USD 840 million) in 2020 and 1.237 trillion won (USD 816 million) in 2021. It means at least 3 trillion won disappeared in those two years. 


Doctor Strange and Don Lee Saved Korean Film Theaters 


The Roundup 


In May 2022, however, the atmosphere was reversed. As social distancing measures were completely lifted and film theaters were operating normally, the films the audience had anticipated started to be released one after another. The first film that led to Mays theatrical success was Marvels Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, released on May 4. With 5.8 million viewers in total, the film enjoyed box office success, surpassing the first episode, Doctor Strange, released in 2016, which recorded 5.44 million viewers in total. The Roundup, a Korean film, took over the box office success baton. 


Released on May 18, The Roundup has set a new box office record every single day since its release. On the first day of its release, the film mobilized 650,000 audiences, recording the highest opening among Korean films since PARASITE (2019), which drew over 10 million viewers, and surpassing 1 million viewers in just two days. It also surpassed 5 million viewers within 10 days of its release, and on the 11th day of its release, the film proved its box office power by becoming the highest grossing movie in 2022. By June 5, The Roundup recorded about 8.86 million viewers in total, raising expectations that it’ll become the first film that will draw ‘10 million viewers’ in the Korean film industry in 3 years.  


Thanks to the good fight of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and The Roundup, the total number of audiences in May 2022 recorded 14.55 million, the highest in 28 months since January 2020, just before the Pandemic. Compared to 3.12 million audiences in April 2022, it is a remarkable record that increased by 366%. During the Pandemic, the average number of monthly audiences in Korean theaters hit the lowest with 970,000 viewers in April 2020, staying in the millions every month. However, the number of moviegoers in May 2022 showed a rapid recovery, similar to 18.06 million viewers in May 2019 and 15.89 million viewers in May 2018 before the COVID-19 Pandemic. 


The Cannes Winners and Hollywood Blockbusters, Expected to Continue Boosting the Theater District in June 




The theater district in June showed a good start, too. While The Roundup is boasting of its box office power, Jurassic World: Dominion, released on June 1, attracted 760,000 viewers on the day of its release. This is the highest opening score since the Pandemic. Also, the winners at Cannes are expected to liven up the Korean theater district in June. 


Broker, which won the Best Actor award at the 75th Festival de Cannes, is scheduled to be released on June 8 (Wed). Broker is the first Korean film directed by Kore-eda Hirokazu, who won the Palme dOr at Cannes 2018 for Shoplifters. Also, Korean actors Song Kangho, Kang Dongwon, Bae Doona, and a K-pop star and actor Lee Jieun (IU) starred in Broker, raising expectations from Korean audiences. On top of that, for the first time among Korean male actors, Song Kangho won the Best Actor award at Cannes, raising the audiences expectations even more. Broker recorded 32.3% of the sales rate before its release, surpassing the sales rate of The Roundup, the No. 1 box office now. 


In addition, Director Park Chanwooks Decision to Leave, which won the Best Director at the 75th Festival de Cannes, will be released on June 29. It is a romance film directed by Park Chanwook, who received rave reviews unanimously at Cannes, and Park Haeil and Tang Weis profound and romantic performances were also praised highly at Cannes. In addition, since Decision to Leave has been given a 15 rating, it is expected to show great synergy in the box office hit. Officials in the film industry predict that winning the awards at Cannes will have a positive impact on the success of the two films. Expressing his expectation, an official said, Bong Joonhos PARASITE became a million-viewer movie in Korea after it won the Palme dOr at Cannes. So, Decision to Leave and Broker will perform well for the box office success as their winning awards at Cannes has raised the expectations and interest of Korean audiences.” 


The Witch : Part2. The Other One 


Director Park Hoonjungs The Witch: Part 2. The Other One, which will be released on June 15, and Tom Cruises Top Gun: Maverick, which will be released on June 22, are also expected to be the driving force behind the box office success in June. The Witch: Part 2. The Other One is a sequel to The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion, which drew 3.18 million viewers. Top Gun: Maverick is the sequel to Top Gun (1987) in 36 years, recording the overwhelming top at the North American box office hit. On June 18, Tom Cruise will visit Korea to promote Top Gun: Maverick, which is receiving enthusiastic responses from Korean audiences. Also, Korean blockbusters, which have delayed their release due to COVID-19, are confirming their release dates one after another in July. If the green light for the Korean theater district in May continues until the end of 2022, it is expected that the stagnant Korean theater district will recover its previous glory swiftly.


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