SEOUL, June 8 (Korea Bizwire) – Earlier this week, CJ CGV, South Korea’s largest multiplex operator, celebrated its 1 billionth moviegoer since it opened its first multiplex in Seoul in 1998.
Multiplex cinemas currently dominate South Korea’s film market.
As of 2016, CGV, Lotte Cinema, and Megabox – the big three cinema operators – boasted 2,379 screens nationwide, accounting for 97.9 percent of the country’s total, with the number increasing each year from 90 percent in 2013 and 92.2 percent in 2015. The franchises also accounted for 97.1 percent of all cinema revenue last year, with CGV claiming roughly 50 percent for four consecutive years.
Industry watchers admit that multiplex theaters have contributed to the South Korean movie industry’s rapid expansion, and its road to international recognition, since the early 2000s.
Over time, multiplex venues have become “culture-plexes,” incorporating restaurants, shopping, and other entertainment facilities to attract more moviegoers, while their screens have become more sophisticated with technologies like 4DX or Screen X, both of which were developed by CJ CGV.
CJ’s 4DX technology, which offers an augmented environmental experience to audiences including seat motion, wind and rain, was introduced in 2009 in Korea, and has since expanded to overseas CGV and non-CGV franchises including Regal Cinemas.
ScreenX, offering a 270-degree movie experience via multi-projection, is also gaining ground in the international market. In December of last year, CJ CGV announced the first Hollywood production using the technology for the upcoming film We Kill Death.
Despite their contributions, multiplex theaters have frequently been subject to criticism, mainly for their monopolization of the market with major conglomerates, like CJ, overseeing movie production, investment, and distribution.
This is particularly true for mega-flicks, which frequently dominate multiplex screens, leaving little room for smaller-scale movies or independent films that are already being screened predominantly during off-hours.
In fact, the latest data from the Korea Film Council has revealed that number-one box office movies accounted for 31.6 percent of all film screenings last year, 3.5 percent higher than the 2013 figure.
“The monopolization of the film industry narrows choices for consumers and encourages unfair practices by major corporations,” said Minjoo Party of Korea lawmaker Kim Byung-wook, a member of the National Assembly’s Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee.
“Investment driven by box office results can also hinder the diversity of film production and in the long run, the development of the industry itself.”
By Joseph Shin (firstname.lastname@example.org)