Film Imports Plummet in South Korea as Local Titles Dominate Box Office

Frozen Film Still - H 2014

Frozen Film Still - H 2014

Despite being one of the most lucrative international territories for Hollywood blockbusters, customs reports show that the county is importing 60 percent fewer films today than in 2008.

SEOUL — South Korea has been importing fewer films as homegrown movies have been sweeping the local box office. The number of import titles has decreased by almost two-thirds in recent years.

According to statistics released on Monday by Seoul Main Customs, Korea has been bringing in fewer than 100 titles since 2012. The number of foreign films entering the country has steadily dropped from 221 in 2008 to holding steady in the 140 to 170 range between 2009 and 2011. In 2012, imports plummeted to below 100 for the first time, with only 95 films.

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Last year's figure dropped further to 86 — of which 33 were U.S. titles — while only 18 films have been brought in so far during the first half of 2014.

Observers believe that film imports have been dwindling due to the notable success of homegrown movies. Eight of last year's 10 highest grossing films were Korean, while eight of the 10 most commercially successful films in local box-office history also are local productions.

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Korea's cinema market has seen remarkable growth over recent years. General film admissions to local theaters surpassed 200 million for the first time and the box office hit a record $1.56 billion in 2013, while the number of movies released shot up 55 percent, from 466 titles in 2012 to 724 last year.

Nevertheless, Korea has been the most cashable market outside of the U.S. for films such as Frozen, which became the sixth highest grossing film in local cinema history earlier this year with $82.9 million.