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The rise of subculture topics and other unlikely box office hits Cinema attendance is rising steadily from pandemic lows. As moviegoers return to movie theaters, cinema businesses worldwide are adopting the latest industry trends to meet post-pandemic expectations. Here is how theaters in South Korea, renowned for its exceptional film industry, are evolving to offer a next-level movie theater experience. How Theaters Are Bouncing Back  In the first half of 2023, South Korean theaters welcomed 58.39 million moviegoers, marking a 130% increase year-over-year. These figures are 70% of pre-pandemic figures — with audience numbers in the first halves of 2017-2019 averaging 83.3 million — and signal the theater industry’s continued recovery.  Audience demographics have shown significant variation depending on the type of film. In January, individuals in their 30s and 40s accounted for 56.8% of ticket sales for the blockbuster “Avatar: The Way of Water.” From February to April, the percentage of teens and individuals in their 20s jumped due to the release of animated films “The First Slam Dunk” and “Suzume,” with repeat viewers boosting numbers up. When action-packed films including “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3,” “Fast X” and “The Roundup: No Way Out” were released in May and June, individuals in their 30s and 40s dominated once again. Since July, people of all ages have made up audience numbers following the release of the beloved Disney film “Elemental” along with other highly anticipated Korean films. Post-Pandemic Audience Trends and Viewing Habits South Korea’s largest multiplex cinema chain CJ CGV, which is also one of the world’s top ten cinema exhibitors, has analyzed post-pandemic audience data and highlighted four keywords to describe emerging movie consumption habits: 1) Small-but-guaranteed entertainment, 2) unlikely come-ups, 3) rise of subcultures and 4) unique experiences. Small-but-guaranteed entertainment indicates audiences’ growing preference for popular, high-rated titles. The average first view date has risen from 10.8 days in 2019 to 15.1 days most recently, with the first view date of teens and individuals in their 20s being 6.3 days and 4.7 days later, respectively.  Another emerging trend is unlikely come-ups, in which the ranking of a title climbs up the chart at a later point due to word-of-mouth reviews and viral marketing. A prime example of this can be seen with the film “Elemental,” which attracted more audience members in the third (16.4%) and fourth (16.9%) weeks of its release than in the first two weeks (10.5% and 12.3% respectively). This points to the visible shift in movie-watching habits in recent years. In contrast, “Frozen II” — the highest-grossing animated film of all time at the South Korean box office, attracted 42.5% of theatergoers in the first week of its release, with audience numbers steadily declining for its remaining run in the movie theaters. The third keyword, rise of subcultures, illustrates the recent viewing habits of South Korean audiences to view films based on their own personal interests. This has led to trends such as repeat viewing of films and the increasing popularity of Japanese animated films. Repeat viewing, which in the past had been centered around specific box office hits, has now expanded to moderately successful films as well. This trend has increased across all age groups in the past year, with Japanese animated films garnering a large proportion of repeat viewership. As a result, Japanese animations have been steadily gaining in popularity, accounting for 11.9% of all movies released over the past year — a 6.1% rise from 2019. In line with these trends, CGV has held special events that have been well-received by moviegoers, with both its “Screening for Pink Mania” dedicated to “Barbie” fans and “Screen F (as in the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator): Empathetic Viewers” for “Elemental” lovers recording an average occupancy rate of 80%.  CGV’s fourth keyword unique experiences refers to the growing desire for immersive experiences that can only take place in movie theaters. CGV’s specialty theaters, equipped with the latest technology and offering more customized, premium experiences, have seen steady increases in both cinema admissions and revenue, growing by 4.5% and 7.6% respectively compared to 2019 levels. The average occupancy rate of “Oppenheimer” in IMAX topped 52% in its first week of release, while sales shares of “I Am Hero the Final” reached 73% at CGV ScreenX theaters — the company’s multi-projection cinematic platform offering a 270-degree panoramic experience. Luxury specialty theaters have also experienced rising popularity, with notable examples including Tempur Cinema — the first theater in the world equipped with Tempur reclining beds — and Private Box, a theater that offers privatized cubicles. The occupancy rate of these premium theaters has been twice that of regular theaters over the past three years, indicating an increased demand for high-end viewing experiences.
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