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KOFIC Announces Korean Film Industry Results for July

Aug 27, 2019
  • Writerby HWANG Hee-yun
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Local market share for the July period hits lowest point in 15 years

The admission figures are painting a difficult picture for Korean films. With a total of 3.34 million, local films recorded their worst July box office in terms of tickets sold since 2008, dipping at only 15.2% of all admissions, itself the lowest local market share for the July season since 2004. This represents a 38% drop (down 2.05 million adm) from the same period last year. The difference in terms of sales volume is even more significant, since total sales of Korean films stood at KRW 25.4 billion (USD 21.14 million) in July, down 42.7% (KRW 18.9 billion) from last year.

Regarding the sudden loss of competitiveness of Korean films, the Korean Film Council (hereafter KOFIC; chairperson: OH Seok Geun) explains that this is due to the fact distributors were reluctant to launch competitive Korean films around the same time as Spider-Man: Far from Home. KOFIC added that The King’s Letters, which stars SONG Kang-ho and PARK Hae-il and was expected to have a good opening, was overshadowed by a controversy over alleged historical distortions, and that Korean cinema recorded its worst July in terms of market share in 15 years.

Korean films’ loss was foreign movies’ gain. Admission figures for foreign titles in July hit a new record for the month with 18.58 million tickets sold. Compared to July 2018, this represents a 29.1% rise (+4.19 million adm), with total sales rising 30.4% (KRW 37 billion, roughly USD 30.82 million). The main force behind these numbers was by far Spider-Man: Far From Home. This movie alone drew in 7.96 million moviegoers over the month, thus claiming top spot for July, followed by Lion King and its 4.14 million tickets sold. Aladdin and Toy Story 4 took the next spots on the charts with 3.66 million and 1.13 million tickets, respectively. The King’s Letters, released on July 24, had to settle for fifth place of the overall July charts with 900,000 spectators.

The King’s Letters nevertheless had the best run among Korean films. The fact that less than a million admissions was good enough to take the lead of the domestic movies is quite unusual. KOFIC noted that the last time a Korean topped local releases in the July charts with less than a million tickets sold was 15 years ago, when Romance Of Their Own scored 810,000 entries in July 2004. EXIT landed in sixth place of the overall charts with 530,000 admissions while The Divine Fury came in eighth with 410,000 viewers, even though both opened on July 31. It was pointed out by KOFIC that it has fortunately been smooth sailing for EXIT in August, as it currently (as of August 27) sits at 8.36 million admissions.

Among the distributors, Disney’s performances were as remarkable as ever. Walt Disney Company Ltd. sold a total of 8.95 million tickets accounting for 40.8% of total admissions with four releases, which included Lion King (4.14 million adm), Aladdin (3.66 million adm) and Toy Story 4 (1.13 million adm), therefore continuing its box office dominance. Sony Pictures Releasing International Corp. took second place with 7.96 million admissions and 36.3% market share thanks to the charts-topping Spider-Man: Far From Home (7.96 million), and CJ ENM, which had five releases including EXIT (530,000 adm) and PARASITE (480,000 adm), finished third with 1.21 million entries and 5.5% market share.

As for independent and arthouse films, Christian title The Pilgrim’s Progress attracted 86,000 viewers to top the charts in the independent & arthouse category, while the top three was rounded off by The Children Act, an adaptation of world-famous novelist Ian MCEWAN’s book, with its 23,000 spectators, and Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words, a documentary on the singer Maria CALLAS, with 17,000 admissions. Released July 25 just as the Korea-Japan relations were starting to deteriorate, documentary Shusenjo: The Main Battleground Of The Comfort Women Issue scored 10,000 admissions in just a week, and is still strong at the box office as it has now reached 32,000 tickets.
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