Korea Box Office: Retreat Continues as Weekend Total Falls to $4.2 Million

While the Busan International Film Festival was busily hailing a return to normality the slump at South Korea’s commercial box office deepened dramatically over the most recent weekend.

Cinemagoing nationwide was worth only $4.20 million between Friday and Sunday, the lowest weekend total since April and a time before Korean cinemas shed their COVID restrictions.

The weekend’s top film “Life Is Beautiful” managed the lowest first place score of any film this year, with a weekend haul of just $777,000, according to data from Kobiz, the tracking service operated by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).

To its credit, the film climbed from second place in its fourth weekend on release, but it only overtook a “Confidential Assignment 2: International” that has been on release for two months, and its four-week cumulative amounts to just $5.44 million.

“Confidential Assignment 2” slipped 60% with a $661,000 weekend score and occupied second slot. After seven weeks on release, it has amassed $48.0 million, a score that looks all the more impressive considering the autumn downturn.

A box office slowdown had been predicted and has been observed worldwide due to a two-month gap between Hollywood tentpole releases. But it appears that local films in Korea have not been able to take advantage of the Hollywood hiatus.

Audiences in Korea over the latest weekend may have been distracted by the free BTS concert that played live on TV and streaming on Saturday night, but the trend has been downwards since the end of August.

That’s a cause for concern as the releasing freeze caused by the prolonged pandemic conditions had led to a backlog of Korean titles unwilling or unable to release into a weak and uncertain marketplace. The soft market conditions caused some films to delay their cinema outings and others to cut their losses and release via streaming instead.

In recent days, local media has reported that producers of “The Match,” a sports drama film starring major movie stars Lee Byung-hun and Yoo Ah-in, is considering the direct-to streaming route. The film wrapped principal photography in April 2021.

Over the latest weekend, “Crayon Shin-chan: School Mystery! The Splendid Tenkasu Academy” took third place with $570,000. After three weekends, it now has a cumulative of $3.85 million.

“Orphan: First Kill,” a U.S.-made horror-crime title was the top new release, with $514,000 between Friday and Sunday and $714,000 over its opening five days.

“Honest Candidate 2” managed $363,000 for fifth place. That extended its three-week cumulative to $5.49 million.

Internationally-acclaimed “Everything Everywhere All At Once” opened in sixth place. It took $278,000 over the weekend and $371 over its opening five days.

George Clooney and Julia Robert-starring “Ticket to Paradise,” similarly, failed to fire up Korean audiences. It managed $282,000 over its opening five days.

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