The Korea Herald


Cinema operators, film distributors sent to prosecutor for allegedly inflating box office numbers

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Aug. 16, 2023 - 15:29

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CGV I-Park Mall cinema in Yongsan-gu, Seoul (CGV) CGV I-Park Mall cinema in Yongsan-gu, Seoul (CGV)

South Korean police said Wednesday that they have booked 69 people from local cinemas and film distributors they claim were involved in fabricating box office figures over the past several years, on charges of obstruction of business.

According to police, the ticket sales for at least 323 movies that opened in local theaters from March 2018 to June this year were manipulated to bump up movies’ box office rankings.

Multiplex cinema operators like CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox are alleged to have colluded with distributors to enter false ticket sale numbers into the Korean Film Council's online data base, falsely reporting sold-out screenings.

In the process, the sales of up to 2.6 million tickets were exaggerated, according to the police. The police have examined the box office numbers and ticket sales of 462 films distributed by 98 firms since March 2018.

Director Han Jae-rim’s action thriller “Emergency Declaration,” distributed by Showbox, “Hot Blood” (2022) and “Waiting for Rain” (2021) are among the films for which ticket sales were allegedly falsely reported.

Currently, box office figures are aggregated by multiplex cinema operators by entering the number of tickets sold and the total tickets sold per movie into the KOFIC database. During the police investigation, cinema operators were found to have colluded with movie distributors to put in fake numbers, interfering with the work of the KOFIC.

The issue was first raised in August last year when Showbox’s “Emergency Declaration” showed its tickets had sold out for midnight screenings -- hours when cinemas are typically closed.

Showbox claimed that such figures were from midnight test screenings and so were not entered into the box office data, but the figures were indeed included in the KOFIC's box office counts, according to police.

An official from a local film distributor under investigation told The Korea Herald that it will comply with the investigation so that the case can be resolved according to due process.