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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

News: Record Sales & Slim Profits for Korean Film Industry in 2014

By Pierce Conran

South Korea's film industry topped the two trillion won mark for the first time in 2014, reaching 2.03 trillion won (USD 1.84 billion), which was a 7.6% improvement over the previous year. Growth was recorded overall in exhibition sales, the digital online market and overseas sales, yet within those figures Korean admissions, online streaming sales and film exports were all down. Worryingly, despite some record-breaking local hits, the return on investment rate for Korean films almost fell into negative figures.

According to a report by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), the exhibition sector reached of a new peak of $1.51 billion (7.3% over 2013) after attracting a record 215.06 million spectators to theaters. Attendance to Korean films dipped 15.4% yet still managed to break the 100 million barrier for the third year running and just about capture market majority with a 50.1% share. Meanwhile, foreign films set a new record, going over 100 million for the first time after a 24.8% increase.

Briefly, the digital market grew 11% to $270 million, though online streaming fell 31.5%, shrinking its share of that market to 25%, and overseas films exports were down 28.2% to $26.38 million, hardly surprising given 2013's big Snowpiercer boost. However, things were a lot rosier for Korea as both a purveyor of film services ($36.7 million, up 63.9%) and locations ($22.6 million, up sevenfold).

Despite the various increases, perhaps the most crucial figure of all, the profitability rate of local productions, took a huge dive all the way to 0.3%. That was down from the lucrative 14.1% and 13.3% ROI rates of the previous two years. A few records may have been set last year (Roaring Currents, My Love, Don't Cross That River), but 2014 featured a lot of very expensive films which underperformed, as well as a number of huge writeoffs (The Huntresses, No Tears for the Dead, to name some of the costliest). Korea's crop of commercial films looks more promising in 2015, but the lineup may also be more expensive, meaning local revenue would need a big jump to see significant returns.

Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema. For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time).

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