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S. Korean multiplexes remain in red in Q4

All News 10:32 February 21, 2022

By Kim Boram

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's major multiplex operators stayed in the red in the fourth quarter of last year amid the protracted COVID-19 pandemic but are expected to turn a corner in the coming quarters, financial data showed Monday.

CJ CGV, the No. 1 multiplex operator under the wing of entertainment giant CJ Group, said its operating loss reached 43.5 billion won (US$36.4 million) over the October-December period, decreasing sharply from an operating deficit of 89.7 billion won a year ago.

Its fourth-quarter sales soared 67.6 percent on-year to 240.1 billion won from 143.3 billion won thanks to increased ticket sales from Hollywood blockbusters like "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

For the all of 2021, CGV posted sales of 736.3 billion won, up 26.2 percent on-year from 583.4 billion won. Its operating loss narrowed to 241.1 billion won from 388.7 billion won over the one-year period.

This file photo taken on Dec. 19, 2021, shows a Seoul movie theater. (Yonhap)

This file photo taken on Dec. 19, 2021, shows a Seoul movie theater. (Yonhap)

Lotte Cultureworks, which runs Lotte Cinema, saw its fourth-quarter operating loss decrease 21.9 percent to 25 billion won from a loss of 32 billion won a year earlier.

The company posted 72 billion won in sales over the cited period, remaining unchanged from a year earlier.

Its 2021 sales decreased to 234 billion won from the previous year's 422 billion won, while its operating deficit narrowed to 133 billion won from 161 billion won.

J Contentree, which owns Megabox, also remained in the red in the three month period, posting an operating loss of 16 billion won from its cinema operation, unchanged from a year ago.

Its fourth-quarter revenue rose 34.8 percent on-year to 32.7 billion won from 21.3 billion won.

Its sales for 2021 remained nearly flat at 105 billion won, but its operating loss widened to 71 billion won from 66 billion won.

This file photo taken on Dec. 21, 2021, shows a movie theater in Seoul with "Spider-Man:No Way Home" posters. (Yonhap)

This file photo taken on Dec. 21, 2021, shows a movie theater in Seoul with "Spider-Man:No Way Home" posters. (Yonhap)

Insiders said local cinema chains saw a glimmer of hope for better balance sheets in the coming months as big-budget films, such as "Spider-Man," can bring viewers back to theaters.

"An increasing number of local and foreign films, which have been put on hold due to the pandemic, will likely hit screens in the coming months," CJ CGV said in a statement. "Our bottomline is expected to improve thanks to upcoming blockbusters like 'Uncharted' and 'The Batman.'"

Marvel's latest Spider-Man series film set the record for best opening day at the South Korean box office since the new coronavirus broke out, with 635,000 viewers. And its total admission topped 7.5 million, becoming the most-watched film since the Korean disaster film "Ashfall" released in December 2019.

At the same time, the government-led social distancing rules are set to be relaxed in response to omicron variant, which is highly transmissible but less severe than previous strains.

As part of its plans to ease antivirus curbs, the government lifted the vaccine pass requirements for movie theaters in January and suspended the mandatory entry log system that requires people to provide their identification before entering public facilities including movie theaters in February.

Meanwhile, a total of 60.5 million people went to theaters last year, slightly up from 59.5 million tallied in 2020, but the figure is far lower than the pre-pandemic year's 226.7 million.

The 2021 revenue increased 12.7 percent on-year to 584.5 billion won from 510.4 billion won, but plunged 69.5 percent from 1.9 trillion won in 2019.


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