Korea Box Office: New Restrictions Loom, Ghostbusters: Afterlife Fails to Scare

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” crept into the background at the South Korean box office over the weekend, as the top three films remained unchanged.

Nationwide aggregate revenue was a lowly $5.06 million as audiences avoided cinemas ahead of new health restrictions.

Cinemas, along with bars, restaurants, gyms and museums, are among the high-risk places affected by a new tightening of health measures in Korea, intended to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. From Monday, cinemagoers must show a “vaccine pass” in order to be allowed admission.

The measures are expected to be in force for four weeks, covering the normally busy Christmas period.

For most of the year, the Korean public has avoided movie theaters and favored other forms of entertainment. The video streaming scene in Korea is among the world’s most competitive with a mix of local and international streamers vying for eyeballs.

November 2021 aggregate grosses reached KRW66 billion ($55 million), roughly double that of November 2020, but only 42% of pre-COVID 2019. Korea’s annual box office total currently remains below that of 2020 and will likely only narrowly exceed it by year-end, given the new restrictions.

Top honors over the latest weekend went to local fantasy film “Spiritwalker” which dropped 47% in its second frame to score a lowly $1.16 million over the weekend and lift its 12-day total to $5.19 million, according to data from Kobis, the tracking service operated by the Korean Film Council (Kofic).

Disney Animation’s “Encanto” dropped to third place with $894,000 over the weekend, a 47% decline from its first weekend. But it is reported as second by local media, as it sold more tickets (108,000) than all films except “Spiritwalker.” “Encanto” has now accumulated $3.54 million.

Korean title “Nothing Serious” took second place by gross revenues ($953,000) and third place by admissions (105,000). Its cumulative gross now stands at $3.45 million. All three films were released on Nov. 24, 2021.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” was the highest-ranking new release of the last weekend. It earned $407,000 between Friday and Sunday and $659,000 over its opening five days.

In terms of gross revenues, it ranked fifth behind “Dune” which earned $510,000 in its seventh weekend on release. But “Ghostbusters” sold more tickets (47,600 compared with 44,145 for “Dune”) and appears in fourth position in Korean charts, which favor rankings by ticket sales.

“Dune” had the better gross due to its higher average ticket price, reflecting its resilience in premium and large format theaters. Since release on Oct. 20, 2021, “Dune” has now earned $13.7 million in Korea.

A significant distance behind the top five films, Disney-Marvel’s “Eternals” took sixth place over the weekend with $180,000, extending its cumulative to $26.6 million since release on Nov. 3.

New release, “Last Night in Soho” debuted with $145,000 over the weekend and $274,000 over its opening five days. Korea’s “Chun Tae-il” debuted on the same day and earned $114,000 over the weekend. Including previews, it has a cumulative total of $612,000.

Korean holdover, “Perhaps Love” took ninth place with $110,000, extending its three-weekend cumulative to $4.28 million.

Japanese animation “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Hashemira Meeting Arc” took $95,000 over the weekend in tenth spot and $147,000 over its five opening days.

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