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Despite recovery, performing arts sector remains cautious about 2022

Wicked” is 2021’s highest grossing musical. (S&Co)
Wicked” is 2021’s highest grossing musical. (S&Co)


South Korea’s performing arts sector grew almost 80 percent in terms of revenue in 2021, despite the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, but insiders said uncertainty still looms over the industry in 2022.

In 2021, revenue from theatrical plays, musicals, classical concerts and other performances stood at 307 billion won ($258 million), jumping 78 percent from 172 billion won recorded in 2020, data from the Korea Performing Arts Box Office Information System showed.

The recovery was backed by revenue growth in musicals, which took up 76 percent of last year’s total revenue in the performing arts. Last year, the number of musicals or seats may have been reduced due to social distancing rules, but hit musicals “Wicked,” “Dracula, the Musical” and “Xcalibur” were the top three highest-grossing musical productions.

“(The revenue growth in 2021) was partially due to an increase in the audience number which was boosted by relaxed social distancing rules. More importantly, theatergoers became less concerned as we entered the second year of the pandemic,” Choi Seung-hee, a senior public relations manager at Seensee Company, a major musical production company, told The Korea Herald on Monday. “Having said that, we still face uncertainty due to the pandemic and it’s difficult to make a firm plan for the year.”

Lim Hyun-cheol, general manager of Dream Theatre based in Busan, agreed that the new year still has many uncertainties especially for regional theater operators. Dream Theatre Busan has more performances prepared this year than last year, but “there are still risks of COVID-19 variables, so it is not a safe situation,” Lim said. “In particular, regional concert halls like ours are even more severely affected than those in Seoul, so it will take more time to recover.”

Despite occupying a small portion of the total revenue with 33.4 billion won, classical concerts grew 292 percent on-year in 2021, and the sector expects to see more performances by both domestic and overseas artists, including concerts that have been delayed due to the COVID-19. But that is only if the pandemic situation improves, industry experts said.

“Situations overseas are as important as domestic situations for a company that introduces a lot of foreign artists. So it is really difficult to say that this year will be much better than last year,” said Annie Jeong, an assistant manager at classical music production company Vincero. “So we keep our fingers crossed.”

(gypark@heraldcorp.com)

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