In an effort to rein in resurgent coronavirus cases in Seoul, Korean authorities last week tightened restrictions on public gatherings. This dealt a blow to the local box office which has seen strong performances over the past several weeks with titles like Peninsula and Deliver Us From Evil. But the Top 5 films in the market this session grossed a cumulative $3.39M, a sharp 73% decrease versus last weekend.
The news comes as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is due for wide release in Korea on Wednesday. In two days of previews this weekend, the highly anticipated Warner Bros title grossed a solid estimated $717K on about 590 screens with limited capacity, according to Kobiz.
Pre-sales for Tenet have been very strong in the market. Nearly all available IMAX shows had been sold out as of mid-week last week, according to exhibition giant CGV. But, Yonhap reported that with tightened social distancing guidelines limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people in the greater Seoul region, CGV lowered seating capacity to 50%, suspending its ticket booking service. The CGV Yongsan venue has also been temporarily closed.
Now, a near total lockdown may be looming. If the government raises the current Level 2 social distancing guidelines to Level 3, it would mean public gatherings of more than 10 people would be banned and all movie theaters, schools and cafes shuttered.
On Sunday, authorities said masks will be mandatory throughout Seoul with the city applying a “one strike and you’re out” policy on facilities that must be closed under elevated social distancing guidelines. Those include cinemas under Level 3. A violation would result in a two-week suspension of operations, while fines may also be imposed.
The Korean Film Council has already suspended plans to distribute an additional round of discount ticket vouchers which were instrumental in getting the business back on its feet earlier this summer.
The release of action comedy The Golden Holiday was also delayed from last week until further notice and media giant CJ ENM further said it is temporarily halting production on some of its drama and entertainment programs, the Korea Times reported.
Korea saw its 11th consecutive day of triple-digit increases in coronavirus infections on Sunday and the highest number of new cases since early March. Most are in the Seoul area which is home to half of the country’s roughly 52M population. Per the AP, new infections were also reported in other major cities, including Busan, Daejeon and Sejong.