Korea Box Office Is Slow To Respond To Reduced Restrictions

Cinemas in South Korea received the good news last week that anti-COVID measures, including reduced seating capacity and bans on consumption of food and drink, were to end. But audiences reacted gingerly.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” led the box office for a second weekend with $1.63 million, a drop of 44% from its opening weekend, and a 12-day cumulative of $6.55 million. Its three-day score represented 42% of the total weekend market and was more than $1 million more than the second placed film. It pointed to a continuation of a market that is hit driven and propelled by specific titles, rather than a mass return to cinemas.

The nationwide aggregate for the weekend was $3.89 million, down on the previous weekend’s $4.07 million, and still within a deeply depressed range that has persisted through all of February and March.

While Korean audiences remain cautious, the country’s film distributors are beginning to set release dates for new movies and some of the stalled titles that they have been holding back in the hope of better times. Now that conditions are improving, fantasy action film “Alien” and much-delayed “Emergency Declaration” have also both penciled in summer dates.

“Broker” and “Decision to Leave,” both of which have been selected for main competition in Cannes, were confirmed as getting June theatrical releases in Korea. Patriotic naval battle film “Hansan” will be given a release in July. It is the second film in a trilogy by director Kim Han-min, with the first being 2014’s “Roaring Currents,” which holds the record as the highest grossing Korean film of all time.

The latest weekend’s releases were a mix of new Korean and foreign titles and the re-release of a beloved Hong Kong classic.

Korean-made “Air Murder” took second place with $516,000 ahead of another local title “The Anchor” (aka “Aeng Keo”) with $514,000.

Released on Friday, “Air Murder” is the dramatization of real events that took place in 2011 when a household deodorant aerosol was responsible for causing lung damage and killing several people. The major scandal only came to an end in 2016 with the publication of a detailed report that apportioned blame and was followed by the jailing of some responsible.

“The Anchor” is a mystery thriller about a tip-off that happens before a murder. It released on Wednesday and accumulated $832,000 over five days.

American title, “The Lost City” also released on Wednesday. It earned $320,000 over the weekend and $498,000 over five days.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” slipped to fifth place with a third weekend score of $281,000. That lifted its cumulative to $1.87 million.

Concert film and documentary “Seventeen Power of Love: The Movie” featuring K-pop band Seventeen took sixth place with $219,000 over the weekend and $325,000 over five days.

Long-running “Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train” earned another $104,000, in seventh place, extending its total since Jan. 27, 2022, to $16.8 million.

In eighth place, re-released Wong Kar-wai classic “Chungking Express” earned $43,300 from 100 screens. Japanese hit “Jujutsu Kaisen Zero” added $38,000 to extend its cumulative to $4.89 million, earned over two months.

U.S. animation “The Bad Guys” earned $31,000 from previews and grabbed tenth place. The film releases properly on May 4.

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