Is the Korean film industry entering an “Ice Age”? – Korean media raises concerns about the sluggish performance of Korean movies

It is estimated that Hollywood blockbusters will dominate the cinemas in Korea in February and March since no K-movies have been scheduled to be released yet.

Due to the pandemic spread, theaters didn’t witness any interesting events even during the Lunar New Year holiday. Korean masterpieces have not yet scheduled their release and still continue the battle of wit.

On the other hand, foreign blockbusters are expected to be unveiled one after another, raising concerns that Korean films will face an “Ice Age” for the time being.

Korean movies

Distributors and theater managers desperately revealed that Korean movies need to be released in order to revive the film industry in this unprecedented crisis. Accordingly, the government should support movie releases and abolish restrictions on theater business hours.

Since no Korean movies will be premiered from February to March, cinemas will only see a march of Hollywood blockbusters

According to the Korea Box-office Information System, the theaters attracted a total of 1,364,000 visitors during the Lunar New Year holiday (from Jan 29th to Feb 2nd). This is considered a low record compared to the number of theater audiences during the Chuseok holiday in September last year (1,548,000).

The comedy-adventure movie “The Pirates: Goblin Flag”, which was expected to be a Lunar New Year special, and the political movie “King Maker” attracted about 6,49,000 and 357,000 audiences, respectively. Ranking No.1 and No.2 in the box office chart, the two worked barely sold more than 1 million tickets.

Considering them as Korean masterpieces that came out after a long time, their performances are somewhat disappointing. In the second week of their releases, the real-time reservation rate fell significantly, making it difficult to expect a sharp increase in the number of theater audiences in the future.

The problem is that new Korean films are not scheduled to be released until next month when the first quarter of this year ends. In particular, there is currently no tentpole movie (a commercial film that will definitely be a success) that is invested with more than 7 billion won of production cost to invite famous directors and actors. Therefore, it is estimated that Korean films will be hit by a “barley hump”.

Korean movies
Poster of movie “Hero”, which was scheduled to be released in the summer of 2020. [Provided by CJ Entertainment]

According to Yonhap News Agency’s reports, movies that are produced by the so-called “directors who draws 10 million viewers”, such as “Hero” (Director Yoon Je-kyun), “Hansan” (Kim Han-min), “Alien” (Choi Dong-hoon), “Boston 1947” (Kang Je-kyu), “The Moon” (Kim Yong-hwa), and “Smuggling” (Ryu Seung-wan), have not yet confirmed their release dates. Other highly anticipated works, such as “Emergency Declaration”, “Confidential Assignment 2: International”, “The Match”, “The Point Men”, “The Roundup”, “Bogota”, and “The Witch 2”, are also in the same situation.

An official from a movie distributor explained, “Release dates would have been decided roughly if it were in previous years. However, there would be variables due to the spread of COVID-19”, adding, “In this situation when we cannot predict what would happen, it is impossible to simply set a release date.”

On the other hand, foreign films and blockbusters, including DC’s hero movie “The Batman”, Tom Holland’s “Uncharted”, disaster film “Moonfall”, Sony Spider-Man Universe’s anti-hero film “Morbius”, etc., will visit Korean cinema.

Musical film “Cyrano”, director Guillermo del Toro’s new movie “Death on the Nile” and adventure work “Lost City” starring Sandra Bullock are expected to attack the theaters unexpectedly.

This is why foreign films are said to dominate the Korean theaters for at least two months from February to March. 

Korean movies
Poster of “Emergency Declaration”, which was scheduled to be released last month [Provided by Showbox]

“The viewers only come to the theater when there is good content. The film industry desperately needs the government’s support”

People in the film industry all agree that the release of Korean masterpieces is essential to revive the cinemas, which have fallen into an unprecedented slump.

It is argued that in order to attract audiences to visit the theaters, Korean movies targeting wider audiences must be made. Moreover, the idea of a blockbuster that can only be enjoyed properly in theaters was also stated. According to film industry officials, following masterpieces, small and medium-sized movies can also see a “falling effect”.

An official from Multiplex companies said, “If you look at the case of ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home,’ which has more than 7 million audiences, you can see that if the audience wants to see a movie, they are going to watch it even in the pandemic situation,” adding, “If good Korean content comes out, the audience will come to the theater.”

Some say that if blockbusters pour out at once for the peak summer season, some movies could be devastated by box office hits, so they should be released one by one from now on.

An official in the film industry said, “There are 30 blockbusters waiting for their release, and if they rush out to be released in the summer, you can see bloody competition,” adding, “There are many works with an image of ‘old productions’ because they are not released soon.”

Korean movies
Poster of the movie “Hansan,” which was scheduled to be released last summer

However, it is not easy to decide when the movie will be released as the audience plunged due to COVID-19.

Among Korean films released after the spread of COVID-19 in February last year, there are only three films with more than 3 million audiences:Deliver Us from Evil(3.86 million), “Peninsula” (3.3 million), and “Mogadishu” (3.45 million).

In the meantime, if movies are released recklessly, they may not exceed the break-even point and theaters may have to release the work in a short period of time.

The Korean Film Council, which includes the three multiplexes CJ CGV, Lotte Cinema, and Megabox, sponsored half of the production costs of “Mogadishu” and “Sinkhole” last year to make their releases happen, but it is not so easy this year.

This is because existing theaters’ financial conditions are difficult enough to cause them to be closed as they enter the third year of the pandemic.

Another multiplex official said, “Now the government should come up with measures to support the release of Korean films,” and stressed, “If we want the survival of the Korean film industry and the continued growth of K-content, we should not make practical mistakes.”

Recently, the Korean Film Council also appealed for government support and held a resolution conference in front of the National Assembly.

Officials agreed that the abolition of the theater business hours restriction, which the film industry has consistently insisted on, is also urgent. Currently, theaters are only open until 9 p.m., and the end time of the movie screening must not exceed midnight.

An official from Multiplex emphasized, “The business hours limit is why there is no opportunity to movies can’t be screened one or two more times,” adding, “Only when these hurdles are removed can the movie be released.”

Korean movies
A meeting of the film industry to ask for support from the government [Yonhap News Data Photo]
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