A thermal camera checks moviegoers' body temperatures in a theater in Seoul on Monday. /Newsis
This summer's expected blockbusters have largely sputtered as Koreans stayed away from theaters due to the coronavirus epidemic.
According to the Korean Film Council on Thursday, "Deliver Us From Evil", drew 3.81 million moviegoers to rank first, followed by "Peninsula" with 3.79 million and "Steel Rain 2: Summit" with 1.75 million.
But the three combined attracted fewer than 10 million viewers, which is the benchmark determining the summer success of a single film.
Cho Sung-jin at multiplex chain CGV said, "The back-to-back releases of much-hyped Korean films this summer created the opportunity for a rebound, but the results didn't meet expectations".
CGV cinemas temporarily halted ticket bookings when health authorities tightened social-distancing rules on Wednesday, which required movie theaters to cut their seat occupancy rate from 70 to 50 percent.
The lull has raised red flags for production companies.
According to the Korean Film Council, only 14 new Korean movies started filming in the first seven months of this year compared to between 19 and 31 in previous years. That raises the specter of production companies playing it safe and making only vapid blockbusters for theaters or cozy films for home viewing.
But others said the crisis could prompt the movie industry to become more competitive. Critic Youn Sung-eun said, "Despite the stellar success of "Parasite", the Korean movie industry still lacks variety, and an effort to seek new directors and writers as well as screen monopolization... There is a need for innovative approaches to nurture independent or small-scale films in various genres and allocate them a fair amount of theater screens".
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"Summer Blockbusters Sputter at Box Office"
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