CGV eyes overseas expansion

By Kim So-yeon
  • Published : Jul 18, 2017 - 15:53
  • Updated : Jul 18, 2017 - 16:02

Featuring gravity-free beds, a virtual reality arcade and an IMAX screen five times larger than the average screen, the newly renovated CGV Yongsan hopes to take the multiplex theater model to another level.

CGV, Korea’s largest theater chain run by the entertainment conglomerate CJ Group, is well aware that mobile and online platforms such as Netflix are replacing theaters for some consumers. But CGV is betting on experiences that are difficult to replicate at home, infusing both technology and service.

“The direction (for theater multiplexes) lies in differentiating and specializing the experience,” said CGV CEO Seo Jung at a forum marking the reopening of CGV Yongsan on Tuesday.

“It is human nature to go out and enjoy things when people have extra money and time, not just stay at home.”

A 4DX-Screen X theater at CGV Yongsan (CJ CGV)

Seo believes that mobile and traditional media will be able to coexist and complement each other.

Since introducing the first multiplex cinema to Korea in 1998 -- CGV Gangbyeon -- CGV has expanded to a total of 140 cinemas in Korea and 270 theaters abroad. Its goal is to reach 450 theaters worldwide by the year’s end.

On Tuesday, CGV unveiled its newly renovated cinema at Yongsan I Park Mall, now spanning 26,776 square meters, twice its original size. It includes a new IMAX theater, a Skybox theater where theatergoers can watch films from an exclusive box-like room above the theater; a Cine de Chef cinema where viewers lie on beds that induce a gravity-free sensation while enjoying meals; and other exclusive services for both regular and VIP customers.

CGV Yongsan is the first to feature a combination of 4DX and Screen X, where surround scenes are produced on either side of the theater’s walls. Upcoming films such as “The Battleship Island” will be available at the 4DX-Screen X theater.

CGV CEO Seo Jung speaks at a forum marking the reopening of CGV Yongsan on Tuesday. (CJ CGV)

Saturated market

Currently, the average Korean watches 4.2 films per year -- the highest rate globally, according to the Korea Film Council’s 2016 figures. Some 200 million tickets are sold annually.

“Will it be possible to increase the number of viewers? Maybe, with unheard of new content or some kind of groundbreaking change, but that doesn’t seem likely,” said Seo.

Faced with a saturated local market, CGV is seeking growth elsewhere.

Last year, CGV acquired Turkey’s Mars Entertainment Group, taking over some 100 theaters in the country. CGV has 120 theaters in China and over 100 in Indonesia and Vietnam.

Further expansion is under way. There are plans for additional theaters in the UK and Europe, said Choi Byung-hwan, head of new projects at CGV.

“We’re taking steps, one by one, toward Hollywood,” he said.

“There’s a lot of concern about which area we will target next,” said Seo. “We want to expand around Turkey and enter markets like India and Russia, but these are very difficult markets.”

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)