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Evaluation and Analysis of Korean Theater in 2022

Dec 26, 2022
  • Writerby Hellen Park
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Recovering to Half the Pre-Pandemic Level




3 years have passed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and domestic and overseas film festivals have got back to normal while anticipated films have been released one after another. Although we're not free from wearing masks yet, social distancing has gradually been lifted and the scenery of the theater has changed a little. Based on data from Gower Street Analytics, a global box office analysis agency in the U.K., we will look at global theaters and look back at Korean theaters through the settlement of the Korean film industry in November 2022 announced by the Korean Film Council.


Global Box Office in 2022 and 2023 



How much better is the situation in global theaters this year compared to last year? As of December 10 (local time), Gower Street Analytics predicted that the total revenue of the global box office in 2022 would reach $23.6 billion, and based on the figure, the total sales will reach $25.8 billion this year. This is an increase of 21% from last year. It is analyzed that the success of films such as Top Gun: Maverick and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was quite effective. 


On December 16 (local time), 《Hollywood Reporter》, the pop culture media in America, evaluated that China, the world's second-largest film market, suffered a setback in theater operations due to its strict COVID-19 containment policy, and the U.S. filmmakers boycotted the Russian film market due to the Ukrainian invasion, slowing down the overall box office recovery. 


Gower Street Analytics expected revenue from North American theaters to be $7.65 billion this year. Next year, it is also estimated that the revenue in North America and the U.S. will be expected to increase by 12% from this year, but it is still 25% lower than the 3-year average before the COVID-19 Pandemic. Gower Street Analytics predicts that it will not be easy for the film industry to return to normal fully before the COVID-19 Pandemic level until 2024. The media also predicts that the global box office in 2023 will be $29 billion, up 12% from this year. However, in 2019, before the COVID-19 Pandemic, the global box office hit recorded an all-time high of $42.3 billion. Gower Street Analytics' 2023 forecast is 27% lower than the 3-year average before the COVID-19 Pandemic from 2017 to 2019. 


Total Sales Exceeded 1 Trillion Won in 2022 



How did the Korean theater perform this year? According to the November 2022 Korean film industry report released by the Korean Film Council on December 16 (local time), the total sales from January to November in Korea recorded ₩1.26 trillion, exceeding ₩1 trillion in annual sales for the first time since the COVID-19 Pandemic. The figure has more than doubled compared to the same period last year. In addition, the number of moviegoers from January to November this year was 98.63 million, up 46.61 million more from the same period last year. 


Since the movie The Roundup attracted 12.69 million viewers, giving birth to the first 10 million-viewer film in 3 years since 2019, many Korean films and filmmakers have drawn attention at leading domestic and international film festivals this year, including Director Park Chanwook's winning Best Director for Decision to Leave and Actor Song Kangho's winning Best Actor for Broker at the 75th Festival de Cannes. However, the total sales from January to November this year are 58.0% of sales compared to the same period in 2019, and the number of audiences is 48.3% compared to 2019, which seems that more time will be needed to get back to the level before the COVID-19 Pandemic. 


The box office success tended to be concentrated between late spring and early fall. Starting with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and The Roundup in May, Top Gun: Maverick in June, Jurassic World: Dominion in July, Hunt in August, and Confidential Assignment 2: International in September performed successfully, followed by theaters during the peak summer and Chuseok Holiday. Some changes, such as the lifting of social distancing measures on April 18 and allowing eating in theaters on April 25, seem to have had a positive impact on the theater industry as films that had a hard time setting release dates were released one after another. The Night Owl, which was released on November 23 ahead of the end of the year, attracted nearly 3 million viewers for a month, while Avatar: The Way of Water, which was released on December 14, is cruising smoothly attracting over 2 million viewers from December 16 to December 18, for only 2 days of the first weekend it was released. 


However, there are questions about the diversity of box office hits. If you look at the top 10 box office films, except for Hunt and The Night Owl, the rest of them are all characterized by large studio blockbusters such as Marvel or sequels of pre-pandemic box office hits such as The Outlaws, The Admiral: Roaring Currents, and Confidential Assignment. In the independent and artistic film market, Daniels' new film, Everything Everywhere All at Once attracted 350,000 viewers by word of mouth, and Director Yi Seungjoon's The Red Herring recorded 330,000, but the theater environment stagnated overall, and Korean independent art films with cinematic quality and interest have not been properly spotlighted. Director Oh Seyeon's Fanatic, Director Lee Sangmoon's Highway Family, Director Seo Dongil's Please Make Me Look Pretty, Director Lee Ilha's I Am More, Director Hong Sangsoo's The Novelist Film, Director Choi Jonghak's Eobuba, Director Park Kyungmok's Take Care of My Mom, Director Park Riwoong's The Girl on a Bulldozer, Directors Kim Euisung & Joo Jinwoo's Candlelight Revolution, and Director Lee Hyukrae's Sewing Sisters attracted more than 10,000 viewers, interacting with the audience trying to discover new charms. 


Meanwhile, starting with Director JK Youn's Hero, which was released on December 21, various Korean films, such as Director Lee Haeyoung's Phantom, Director Yim Soonrye's The Point Men, and Director Park Hyuckjee's documentary film, Girl Who Dreams about Time, will welcome the new year's moviegoers. We hope all the best for Korean theaters to grow further in 2023 based on their positive achievements and performances in 2022.

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