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(LEAD) Financial regulator pressures firms to buy movie tickets: sources

All News 16:32 January 24, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS details in para 6-7)

SEOUL, Jan. 24 (Yonhap) -- The country's financial regulator has pressured financial companies to buy tickets to a recently released film in bulk to apparently help boost the movie's popularity, sources said Sunday.

The Financial Services Commission (FSC) recently made phone calls to banks, insurance companies and securities firms asking them to buy between 3,000 and 17,000 tickets to the Korean movie "A Melody to Remember," which opened in local theaters Thursday, according to multiple sources in the film and financial industries.

The FSC has oversight over financial firms, suggesting that it used its influence to promote the movie starring Lim Si-wan, an honorary ambassador for the government's "fintech" service, which combines finance and technology.

One bank told Yonhap News Agency that it bought 17,000 tickets and gave them to its call center employees, while an insurance company said it bought 3,000 tickets and used them to promote its insurance plans.

In total, the number of tickets bought at the FSC's request could exceed 40,000, according to preliminary estimates.

"This is very inappropriate behavior by a government body with the right and responsibility to direct financial policy and oversee financial firms," said Kim Sang-jo, an economics professor at Hansung University in Seoul and the chairman of Solidarity for Economic Reform. "It not only comes under abuse of authority by public officials but also government intervention in the film market."

The FSC denied such allegations, adding that although it was true that the organization tried to promote the movie in gratitude for Lim's efforts to assist its fintech-related events, there were no forcible sales of tickets.

"After being tapped as an honorary ambassador for fintech, Lim has made efforts to promote the government's financial reform by filming advertisements and writing articles in the media," the FTC said. "So there was a consensus to help the promotion of the movie."

A movie's ticket booking rate and attendance numbers in the first days after its release are critical factors in determining the success of the film.

According to research, for every 100 tickets bought in advance, as many as 1,003 more people will watch the film due to the word-of-mouth effect.

"A Melody to Remember" ranked first in ticket sales with 21 percent the day before its opening, according to the online booking site Yes24. On its release date, it topped the box office with 26.8 percent of all ticket sales but soon lost the spot to the Hollywood film "The Revenant."

The film's distributor NEW claimed the FSC promoted the movie, leading financial firms to also join the campaign, but denied the ticket sales were forced.

hague@yna.co.kr

colin@yna.co.kr
(END)

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