SEOUL, July 5 (Korea Bizwire) — Another landmark movie theater in Seoul has decided to call it quits, apparently dropping out of its competition against large cinema chains amid the protracted COVID-19 crisis.
The Seoul Cinema, one of the oldest and representative movie theaters in the capital, said Monday it will close its doors at the end of August after 42 years in business.
Established in 1979 by Hapdong Film Co., a film importer and distributor, it was one of Seoul’s most visited first-run theaters, along with several independent single theaters in the central districts of Jongno and Chungmuro.
Notably, Jongno 3-ga, where the Seoul Cinema and two other landmark theaters — Dansungsa and the Piccadilly Cinema — were clustered like neighbors, was long called the center of domestic film consumption. Dansungsa was closed years ago, and Piccadilly was transformed into a multiplex theater.
In an announcement posted on its website, the Seoul Cinema said it will close on Aug. 31, 2021, after having been “loved as the cultural center of Jongno for about 40 years.”
“Hapdong Film Co., the operator of the Seoul Cinema, is preparing for changes and challenges leading up to a new era. We’d like to express our sincere gratitude to the audience who have been with us for a long time,” it said.
The operator cited COVID-19 as the official reason for the planned closure of the Seoul Cinema.
But many industry experts speculate that the pandemic-hit theater may have suffered deteriorating profitability amid a losing battle against brand-name multiplex chains run by large conglomerates, such as CGV and Lotte Cinema.
The Seoul Cinema introduced the nation’s first multiplex system in 1989 and expanded audience convenience facilities through a massive renovation work in 2017 but fell behind in competition against the major multiplex chains.
The theater has also tried to stay afloat by showing art films and was also used as the venue of small film festivals, such as the Mise-en-scene Short Film Festival and the Seoul Environmental Film Festival.
“It’s sad to see one of the best theaters going out of business,” an official of the Korean Cinema Association said.
“Local movie theaters have been going through difficulties as their main customers, including young people, have stopped visiting. The situation seems similar not only at the Seoul Cinema but also at other theaters.”