Korean Exhibitors Feeling Pinch From New COVID Spike As Authorities Attempt To Stave Off Closures

Korea’s recent coronavirus resurgence has already taken a toll on the box office over the past two weekends, and exhibitors are now feeling a further pinch. According to the Yonhap news agency, Lotte Cultureworks, which includes multiplex chain Lotte Cinema, said it will offer voluntary retirement to employees who have been with the company for at least five years.

This follows a similar move by CGV which offered an early retirement deal in March. The company has also opted to close its cinema at Incheon International Airport indefinitely, beginning tomorrow.

Korea had been a beacon of light in July and early August with such local hits as #Alive, Peninsula and Deliver Us From Evil. However, case spikes have seen turnstiles slow — last weekend they were down about 70% versus the previous frame. Tenet had a decent opening this session, though it came in lower than hoped due to increased restrictions and a health-conscious public.

Largely centered in the greater Seoul area, the new cases have hovered around the 300 mark with a six-month high of 441 new infections reported last Thursday. Cinemas registered about 300K admissions per day in the first half of August, but those have since dropped to around 100K. The city is currently at Level 2 in its social distancing guidelines which bans indoor gatherings of more than 50 people. Should this rise to Level 3, cinemas would be closed.

On Sunday, authorities restricted the operations of restaurants, bakeries and coffee chains in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province under what’s being termed Level 2.5. Jeong Eun-kyeong, head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “We will be able to minimize the damage if we can complete the enhanced Level Two distancing scheme strongly in a short time. We expect to see the effect of the toughened Level Two distancing this weekend or early next week.”

The release of local title Space Sweepers has been delayed as was The Golden Holiday, as we previously reported. It’s understood that both The New Mutants and Mulan have been pushed further into September.

According to Yonhap, 38M people went to the movies in the first seven months of this year, versus 131.2M during the same period of 2019 and revenues were down 70%.

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