‘No Time to Die’ Opens on Top at Korea Box Office

James Bond franchise film “No Time to Die” opened in top spot at the box office in South Korea on Wednesday. But the opening score on its commercial debut won’t require a rewrite of the local record books.

The film earned $663,000 (KRW785 million) from 104,000 ticket sales, according to data from the Kobis box office service operated by the Korean Film Council (Kofic). That was achieved from 3,937 screening sessions and represented a 62% share of the Wednesday box office total.

The “No Time to Die” numbers look decently solid in a market that in pre-COVID times was the world’s fourth largest (only behind North America, China and Japan), but which has suffered an only stuttering return to life since the pandemic. The coming weekend will bring more clarity.

With new COVID infections running at over 2,000 per day for the past five days, health restrictions look likely to remain in place for another couple of weeks. Greater Seoul has been under Level 4 conditions, the highest under the country’s four-level system, since July. These restrict cinema hours and capacity. The rest of the country is on Level 3.

Further analysis points to 27% of Wednesday’s total coming from Seoul and 3.8% from Imax screens. Distributed by Universal Pictures International Korea, the film is available in 2D digital, 4D, Imax, ScreenX and Dolby Cinema formats in the country.

The Bond franchise has never been the strongest performer in Korea, and Universal’s 2015 “Spectre” was weaker than 2012 “Skyfall” from Sony.

“Skyfall” sold 202,000 tickets on its opening day, worth KRW1.51 billion ($1.28 million at today’s exchange rates), leading to a lifetime score of 2.37 million spectators and a gross of KRW17.5 billion ($14.8 million at today’s exchange rates).

“Spectre” opened with 188,000 first day ticket sales and a gross of KRW1.45 billion ($1.22 million at current exchange rates) before going on to achieve a lifetime score of 1.82 million spectators, producing a final box office of KRW14.2 billion ($12 million at current exchange rates).

More generally, the Korean public has shown a continuing nervousness towards a mass return to movie theaters. Box office briefly surged for the Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) holidays in mid-September, but plunged again to three month lows during the latest weekend.

The industry has suffered supply side problems as some venues have closed permanently and several leading Korean titles have been delayed or canceled.

At the same time, streaming to home or mobile is becoming normalized. Industry tracker WiseApp estimated that Netflix earned revenues of $68 million in Korea in August, more than aggregate nationwide theatrical grosses of $64 million (KRW76.3 billion) in the same month. WiseApp estimated that Netflix’s subscription base in Korea has now reached 5.14 million, compared with 3.16 million a year earlier.

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