January 31, 2023

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Korea Box Office: ‘Avatar 2’ Wins Fourth Weekend

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South Korea’s box office continued its “Avatar”-driven strong run in its fourth weekend, with overall takings surpassing $15 million from the first typical Friday through Sunday of the new year.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” is the top spot it has enjoyed since its mid-December release. But local holdover title “Hero” and new release “The First Slam Dunk” had good showings.

“Avatar 2” took in $6.42 million in its fourth weekend of release, according to data from Kobis, a tracking service run by the Korean Film Council (Kofic). This was a 51% weekend drop after the previous two weekends when the film held very strongly and benefited from the Christmas and New Year holiday season. Since its release on December 14, 2022, the title has now accumulated a total of $87.8 million. Its market share fell to 42% over the weekend, the first time it has fallen below half since its debut.

“Hero,” a historical drama depicting anti-Korean anti-Japanese activists in occupied Manchuria, enjoyed second place since its Dec. 21 release. It grossed $2.62 million in its third weekend of release and claimed 16.8% market share Directed by Bhaag serial hitmaker, JK Yoon, the film now has a gross of $17.5 million.

Japanese animation film “The First Slam Dunk” was the weekend’s top new opener. It grossed $2.61 million over the weekend and enjoyed a 16.7% market share. In the five days since its Wednesday debut, it has grossed $3.49 million.

Two other new release titles follow. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” opened with $1.69 million over the weekend and $2.40 over its opening five days. The Korean-produced “Switch” grossed $1.10 million over the weekend and $1.78 million over five days.

Despite being released on November 30, 2022, the Japanese title “Even If This Love Disappears From The World” continues its chart run. It earned $459,000 in sixth place for a total of $6.53 million over seven weekends.

“The Night Owl,” which topped the Korean charts for three weekends before the release of “Avatar 2,” finished seventh with a weekend score of $151,000. After seven weekends of release, it has a cumulative total of $26.0 million.

“Shinbi’s Haunted House: The Dimension Ghost and the Seven Worlds” added $132,000 in its fourth weekend, for a total of $3.14 million.

The Korean-made “Gentleman” quickly jumped to ninth place from its third-place opening a week ago. Earnings dropped 90% due to taking $84,000 for a 12-day cume of $1.62 million.

George Miller’s “Three Thousand Years of Longing” had a tenth-place opening, taking in $52,000 Friday through Sunday and $99,000 over the opening five days.

The weekend gross nationwide was $15.6 million, which is rarely seen between September and November, but comfortably exceeded that of “Avatar’s” reign. It remains to be seen whether Korean audiences have rediscovered the habit of going to the movies.

Annual box office is up 96% to KRW1.16 trillion in 2022, compared to a disastrous 2021 (and a fractionally worse 2020). Korean movie market share has more than halved, to 56%, restoring the normalcy it held for a decade until the Covid-hit 2021. In admissions, the year-on-year gain was 87% (from 60.5 million in 2021 to 113 million in 2022), reflecting the impact of slightly higher ticket prices.

But last year’s Korean box office recovery was not consistent. After a flurry of summer releases, revenues declined in the fall months. Commentators have pointed to a poor supply of new titles, but also to growing competition for consumers’ time and wallets, particularly from the country’s hyper-competitive streaming video sector.

And while 2022 was an improvement over the previous two years, gross box office was 39% behind 2019, when gross revenue was KRW1.91 trillion and Korea was the world’s fourth-largest box office market.

The strength of the US dollar relative to the Korean won also undermines the global value of the Korean cinema marketplace. Using year-end conversion rates for each year, the Korean theater market size is $1.65 billion in 2019, $496 million in 2020, $492 million in 2021, and $922 million in 2022 – the latter a 45% decrease from 2019. .

In terms of cinema admissions, the contrast between the pre-Covid era and Korea’s present is also stark: total attendance in 2022 was only 49% of 2019’s 227 million.

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