Film Industry Denies Allegations amid Box Office Rigging Probe | Be Korea-savvy

Film Industry Denies Allegations amid Box Office Rigging Probe

A movie theater in Seoul on Aug. 26, 2020. (Yonhap)

A movie theater in Seoul on Aug. 26, 2020. (Yonhap)

SEOUL, Aug. 17 (Korea Bizwire)Police have accused film distributors of manipulating ticket sales and obstructing official duties, while the movie industry is deeming the allegations excessive.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency on Wednesday announced the result after investigating three major movie theater chains CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox, 98 film distributors and 462 movie titles released locally in the past five years over allegations that box office numbers of some hit films were rigged.

The police agency said a total of 69 officials from the theater chains and 24 film distributors were referred to the prosecution Monday as part of the investigation.

In collusion with film distributors, the accused theater officials allegedly entered inflated ticket sales information onto the Korean Film Council’s box office compiling service from March 2018 to June this year to boost the box office rankings of the movies released at their theaters, police said.

The accused falsely reported tickets at certain show times were sold out and, as a result of the alleged rigging, a total of 2.67 million viewers were overcounted.

A movie theater in Seoul on May 1, 2020. (Yonhap)

A movie theater in Seoul on May 1, 2020. (Yonhap)

But industry officials assert that it’s a customary strategy for film distributors to procure substantial quantities of movie tickets and distribute them at no cost, aiming to promote their film shortly before and after its release.

In cases where some complimentary tickets remain, distributors utilize the early morning hours to host what are commonly referred to as “ghost screenings,” allowing them to recoup a portion of the funds spent on procuring these giveaway tickets.

The movie theater doesn’t actually exhibit the film during these screenings; instead, it designates the time and venue for the “false” screening.

This approach permits the surplus giveaway tickets to be logged into the integrated movie ticket database, enabling distributors to recover a part of their ticket procurement expenses, thereby mitigating losses.

Despite its illegality, film distributors don’t reap substantial benefits from this practice unless they invest a significant amount in obtaining giveaway tickets, argue industry observers.

Some individuals believe that the recent police investigation might have political motivations, viewing it as an attempt to rein in the liberal film industry by labeling it as “unethical.”

This perspective gained traction, especially after an individual linked to the production of the documentary film “The Red Herring” (2022) — a movie about the embattled ex-Justice Minister Cho Kuk — was implicated in the list of charges by the police.

Ashley Song (

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