Korean boxoffice slump continues

April worst month in five years

SEOUL -- South Korea’s theatrical downturn continued in April, as movie attendance recorded its worst showing in the last five years.

Nationwide attendance in April was 7.44 million, according to figures released by CJ CGV, Korea’s biggest multiplex chain.

That is the lowest attendance figure for any month since April 2003, when it was 6.48 million.

After nearly continuous growth from 1996 to 2006, when the movie market grew from $203 million to $1.1 billion, the Korean film industry has been shaken up by a dramatic reversal in fortunes.

Nationwide attendance dropped 5.5% in 2007, and so far in 2008, it is down another 9.0%.

Local films also performed poorly, accounting for just 23.1% of the boxoffice, the lowest level since July 2007.

The biggest film in April was the Liam Neeson film “Taken,” which recorded 1.45 million admissions.

The most popular Korean film was “The Guard Post,” with 960,600 admissions.

There were only two Korean films in the top 10 for April, the other being “The Chaser,” which was released in February. “The Chaser” has now topped 5.1 million admissions.

With the Hollywood summer movie season about to unleash its usual tide of blockbusters, many in the Korean film industry are worried about how far local films might fall over the next two to three months, given the usual strength of Hollywood product in the Korean market.

Some industry observers have privately said they are afraid local films might end the year with less than 40 percent of total boxoffice, a huge decline from the 64 percent they had in 2006.