|A sign on display at CGV Myeongdong Branch advises the suspension of business due to the prolonged fallout from COVID-19 pandemic, in this March file photo. / Korea Times file|
By Kwak Yeon-soo
CGV, the country's largest multiplex operator, said Monday it will reduce 30 percent of its cinemas as the pandemic continues to slam the movie industry.
As part of its restructuring plan, the chain will close 35 to 40 theaters, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of its theaters nationwide, within three years.
The opening of new branches will be delayed or called off, as the company's revenue is estimated to have fallen nearly 70 percent from a year earlier, a reflection of the struggles domestic movie theaters have been facing since COVID-19 hit the country in February.
As for existing branches, the company will introduce a more flexible policy such as limiting the number of screenings depending on the film lineup and estimated audience size. For instance, some theaters are considering closing during weekdays and opening only on weekends to improve operational efficiency.
The move comes as films studios are continuing to delay tentpole movies because of the ongoing pandemic. The premiere of sci-fi adventure "Space Sweepers," one of the most-anticipated blockbusters this year, was put on hold, while the opening of the homegrown mystery thriller film "Call" was delayed indefinitely.
According to data from the Korean Film Council, the number of moviegoers this year through September plummeted by 70.8 percent from the same period a year ago.
Earlier, the movie chain announced it will raise ticket prices by up to 2,000 won ($1.75) starting Oct. 26. According to CGV, ticket prices will rise to 12,000 won and 13,000 won for 2D films after 1 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends (Friday to Sunday), respectively.
It will also abolish the current seat pricing system in which seats are priced differently by zones ― economy, standard and prime. Seats in the prime zone cost 2,000 won more than economy seats. However, it will keep the 1,000 won discount for the first two rows. Ticket prices for 4DX and IMAX theaters will also rise by 1,000 won.
"We've been tightening our belt to deal with the financial crisis brought about by the pandemic, but due to the prolonged fallout from COVID-19 and a number of homegrown and Hollywood tentpole releases being postponed, we felt it was necessary to implement tough self-rescue measures," a CGV official said. "We will come up with stronger measures if necessary."