Korean movie admissions recover sharply in first 11 months this year

Posters of ″Avatar: The Way of Water″ are hung up on the wall of a theater in Seoul on Dec. 20. [YONHAP]

Theater admissions sharply recovered in the first 11 months of the year compared with the deep slump a year ago but remained below half of the pre-pandemic level, industry data showed Thursday.

A total of 986.3 million tickets were sold in the January-November period, up 89.3 percent from a year earlier when the film industry was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the data from the Korea Film Council (Kofic).

Still, the figure came to 48.3 percent of the tickets sold for the same period in 2019 due to a lack of mega-hit films.

Ticket sales in the first 11 months reached slightly over 1 trillion won ($776.5 million), surpassing the mark for the first time since the pandemic began, the data showed.

This year, the Korean action comedy "The Roundup" is the biggest box-office hit so far. The sequel to the 2017 hit "The Outlaws" has drawn 12.7 million viewers since its May release, becoming the 13th most-watched film of all time in Korea.

"Top Gun: Maverick," the sequel to the American action film "Top Gun" (1986), came next with 8.2 million admissions, becoming the most-viewed foreign film since the start of the pandemic.

However, ticket sales of the star-studded Korean films "Emergency Declaration" and "Alienoid," as well as Marvel's blockbusters "Thor: Love and Thunder" and "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," remained far below market expectations.

Now, eyes are on whether "Avatar: The Way of Water," the sequel to the 2009 sci-fi blockbuster "Avatar," can boost year-end box-office sales.

The movie has drawn 3.2 million admissions since its theatrical release on Dec. 14, showing a high ratio of premium ticket sales from 3-D, 4-D and Dolby Cinema screens.