Forecasts for the domestic film industry's sales are pessimistic, amid a weaker than expected recovery at the box office.
The number of moviegoers reached 112.8 million in 2022, according to the 2022 Korean film industry's sales report released by the Korean Film Council on Thursday. That was more than double the 52.28 million of the year before, but still sharply down from 226.68 million in the last pre-pandemic year of 2019.
Sales were 1 trillion won ($807 million) last year, 49.8 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
Total sales from January to December last year were 1.16 trillion won, a 98.5 percent increase over 2021.
However, film industry insiders said that the figure fell far short of their expectation, as it amounted to 60.6 percent of the 2019 sales figure.
Despite signs of a gradual recovery, the Korean Film Development Fund, which collects 3 percent of movie theater admission fees, recorded 17.9 billion won in 2022. The figure is just 32.8 percent of the 54.5 billion won collected in 2019, although part of the decrease is due to some theaters being exempt from the payments during the pandemic.
"If this trend continues, we are expected to face a crisis of depletion of the Film Development Fund in the second half of 2023," the state-run film council said in the press release.
But Korean films' recovery was more pronounced than that of foreign films last year.
Domestic films accounted for 631 billion won of the total sales, a 263.9 percent increase from 2021. Foreign films sales stood at around 111.1 billion won.
"The Roundup," starring Ma Dong-seok and Son Suk-ku, topped the box office in 2022 with 12.69 million viewers.
James Cameron's "Avatar: The Way of Water" has attracted some 7 million viewers since opening in December.