[HanCinema's News] South Korean Film Industry Suffers Despite Record Breaking Movies

The success of South Korean movies like "Exhuma" and "The Roundup: Punishment" at the South Korean box office have seemed to herald the revival of the South Korean film industry. But the picture for South Korean distributors is not so optimistic. Despite a 40% increase in ticket prices, distributors are losing money in part thanks to discount promotions designed to drive up the volume of theatergoers. This issue was recently discussed at a Jeonju International Film Festival forum on May 2nd.


The panel, which convened on the topic of the restoration of South Korean film, had representatives from Women In Film Korea, the Korean Film Producers Association, and the Korean Arthouse Cinema Association among others. One representative from Haha Films discussed how the average ticket price of 8,444 won in 2019 went up to 10,285 won by 2022 before falling again to 9,678 won this year. But none of these figures can recoup the true price of 15,000 won.

Film distributors are supposed to split ticket sales with theaters fifty-fifty. However, the aggressive use of promotions by theaters chains make this split closer to forty-sixty. In general, it's to the advantage of theaters in South Korea to offer cheap tickets as most of their revenue comes from concession sales, not the box office receipts. "Exhuma" is estimated to have lost about eight million dollars, or 10.7 billion won, due to these economic tendencies.

According to the panel, the main cause for all this was the distributors themselves not showing sufficient initiative on this question and allowing theater chains to dictate their own terms. The panelists called for more better communication to bring more transparency and consistency to an industry that has become increasingly adversarial to cross purposes. The three hour session ended with an open question session that was quite critical of "The Roundup: Punishment" at present.

The vice executive chairman of the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival noted with much agitation that the success of films like "The Roundup: Punishment" dooms everyone else, because it monopolizes available screens. The Korean Film Producers Association representative claimed that they were looking into enforcing screen caps, in addition to four other proposals. The Jeonju International Film Festival began on May 1st and will conclude on May 10th.

Written by William Schwartz