This weekend’s awards at the South Korean box office went to Japanese animated movie “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To The Swordsmith Village,” the latest installment in the “Demon Slayer” movie and TV franchise.
It earned $2.31 million between Friday and Sunday, nearly a quarter of the weekend cinema total, according to data from Kobis, the tracking service run by the Korea Film Council (KOFIC).
Domestic charts show another new release, the Korean-made crime drama “Devil’s Deal”, leading the way. This is because it sold more tickets 257,000 compared to 235,000 for the Japanese title, and Korean charts favor unit sales over total revenue. With the lower ticket price, “The Devil’s Door” had a lower weekend total of $2.00 million.
Further muddying the analysis, the two films were released on different days. The Devil’s Deal was released on Wednesday and grossed $3.81 million over five days. “Demon Slayer” opened Thursday and earned $2.94 million over four days.
Ticket pricing has become an important factor, not only in determining weekend chart position, but also in shaping the financial health of the fair industry.
Another new release, “I’m the Ultimate Champion” also inserted itself into the top three. A musical starring singer Lim Young Woong, it took in $1.24 million from 66,000 ticket sales. During its five opening days, it grossed $2.51 million from 135,000 tickets.
The three new openers pushed “The First Slam Dunk,” another Japanese animation that has been in the air since January, from second to fourth. Their previous chart hit, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” fell from one to six. “Slam Dunk” took in $943,000 over the weekend, for a cumulative $30.5 million since January 4. “Ant-Man” grossed $513,000, for a cumulative total of $12.3 million after three weekends.
In fifth place, the American film “Missing” came in at just under $100 ahead of Ant-Man. After two weekends upon release, it had grossed $2.68 million.
The K-drama “My Heart Puppy,” about two men seeking to recover the dog they’ve lost, grossed $439,000 in its proper weekend and $791,000 during its opening five days.
Korean sports drama “Count” took in $323,000 over the weekend, for a cumulative 12-day run of $2.61 million.
Another local title, “Marui Video”, grossed $142,000 over the weekend at number ten, giving a 12-day business of $1.21 million.
In ninth place was “Suzume,” the Japanese animated film that premiered as previews and officially opened in Korean theaters on Wednesday. He earned $312,000 between Friday and Sunday and has already collected $576,000.
The crop of new films brought its weekend box office total up 29% from the previous session. But the Friday-Sunday total of $9.39 million is still far from the pre-COVID-era weekend average.
In reaction to the low levels of business, cinema operators in Korea have made three price hikes in the COVID era. The average ticket price in 2022 was KRW 10,285 ($7.92), up 6.5% from KRW 9,656 ($7.44) for 2021, according to KOFIC.
The mid-ticket price figure hides a growing disparity between titles and the growing importance of premium screens (and their premium prices). For example, tickets for “The Devil’s Deal” last weekend sold for an average of $7.78, while tickets for Lim’s concert movie sold for $18.75 apiece.
KOFIC’s latest report showed that premium screens (Imax and Dolby, as well as domestic brands 4DX and ScreenX) enjoyed a 170% jump in revenue in 2022, compared to 2021. Last year, it accounted for 7.7% of tickets sold and 10.9% from the boxes. office by value.
Monthly data shows that Korea’s box office is recovering to 2020 levels. January and February 2023 totaled KRW 214 billion, a better figure than any year affected by the pandemic (2020-2022). But even so, revenue was just shy of 38% in the first two months of 20219, the last normal year for the industry. And 68% of the market share went to foreign titles.
In terms of spectator numbers, the start to 2023 still lags behind 2019 – only 19.4 million tickets sold, a 52% shortfall compared to 40.4 million turnstile visits in January and February 2019 – with a somewhat hidden huge gap to the top average. Ticket selling prices. Significantly reducing the number of people may cause cinema operators to rethink the number of places they keep in business.
Combined with KOFIC’s other analysis on the success of the sequels, the severely reduced staff count also indicates that a large portion of the Korean audience is turning to other destinations for entertainment. Cinema visits are becoming a rarer and more expensive activity increasingly spurred by event films, franchise installments and giant screen offerings.
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