|A worker conducts a safety inspection at Lotte Cinema World Tower branch in this June 11 file photo. / Yonhap|
By Kwak Yeon-soo
Lotte Cinema has joined CGV and Megabox to raise ticket prices as part of its ongoing attempts to survive the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting Dec. 2, the average ticket price will be raised by 1,000 won. However, it will keep the 1,000 won discount for seats in the first row. Prices for elderly customers, children, people with impairments and people of national merit will remain unchanged.
The theater chain also announced its plan to close 20 percent of its theaters nationwide and reduce stakes in overseas operations within two years as a "self-rescue measure for survival."
The country's leading multiplexes have been suffering huge losses since March after they were forced to temporarily shut down some cinemas and movie studios delayed releases of some blockbusters.
Lotte Cinema will reduce 20 loss-making sites of 100 directly run branches nationwide. It will also pull out of China, Hong Kong and Indonesia and reduce the number of theaters operating in Vietnam by 20 percent. Currently, the company is operating 80 screens in 12 theaters in China and Hong Kong, five screens in one theater in Indonesia and 224 screens in 47 theaters in Vietnam.
The company official explained that its sales have gone down almost 70 percent compared with the same period last year, and the operating loss for each month recorded 15 billion won.
"We are desperate to raise more money and come up with flexible countermeasures to cope with the rapidly evolving film industry, such as the sharp decline in the number of moviegoers, rise of OTT video streaming services and delays in big budget releases," a Lotte Cultureworks official said.
The OTT platform has seen significant growth while traditional movie theaters failed to attract audiences here. Following "Time to Hunt," the upcoming mystery thriller "Call" and sci-fi blockbuster "Space Sweepers" are skipping theaters to premiere on Netflix. In September, distributor Warner Bros. Korea decided to exit the Korean market due to poor results in its latest productions.
According to data from the Korean Film Council, the number of moviegoers this year through October plummeted by 70 percent to 54.5 million from the same period a year ago.
In October, CGV raised its ticket prices by up to 2,000 won citing additional costs for pandemic safety measures, sharp drop in ticket sales and postponement of anticipated Korean and Hollywood releases. It also decided to close 30 percent of its theaters nationwide.
Megabox announced tickets for weekday screenings (Monday to Thursday) for regular 2D films will cost 12,000 won and weekend screenings (Friday to Sunday) will cost 13,000 won starting Nov 23. Tickets to premium screenings with either better seats or sound systems will be increased by an average of 1,000 won.
"The price hike was an inevitable decision as the situation has never been direr. We have been tightening our belts, undergoing job cuts, closing loss-making branches and reducing operating hours, but we still couldn't resolve uncertainties," a Megabox official said.