Korean Exhibitors To Receive Government Support As March Box Office Hits Record Low

Support measures for exhibitors in Korea were unveiled this week which include seeing them exempted from paying into the national movie development fund, as one of the world’s biggest markets suffers cinema closures and all-time box office lows amid the coronavirus crisis.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki announced the moves on Wednesday, according to local reports, saying the exemption will be retroactively applied from February, just after China pulled its Lunar New Year releases which had a knock-on effect in the region.

Similar to France and other offshore markets, Korea enforces a tax on ticket sales which goes into a centralized fund. In Korea’s case, the 3% levy has annually averaged about $44M since 2016.

(There have been some conflicting reports as to whether the Korean government’s position on the tax is a deferment or an exemption, however, according to the Yonhap News Agency which reported that response to the measures has been mixed.)

Admissions for March were 1.83M, the lowest ever since KOFIC began compiling box office data in 2004. Box office revenue in March 2020 was down 88% on 2019, at $12.4M. Korea in 2019 was the world’s 5th biggest market with a strong local business. This year so far it is in 8th place. Last week, CGV and Megabox began shuttering cinemas.

Overall, Korea is off 56% in local currency versus 2019 in the first three months of 2020, according to comScore. A recent S&P Global Market Intelligence and OPUSData report said that Asia Pacific box office revenues fell 85% year on year in January and February this year.

The Korea Herald reports that the government also said it would contribute to marketing costs for 20 films that had been set to release in the first quarter, but were delayed due to the coronavirus. It will also provide funds to help another 20 titles get back into production and will assist in vocational training for film industry workers who have lost their jobs. The newspaper further said shooting on disaster pic Emergency Declaration, starring Parasite’s Song Kang-ho and The Man Standing Next’s Lee Byung-hun, has been postponed, among other titles.

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