South Korea is to launch a new web-based box office tracking system, similar to recently developed industry tools: Nielsen EDI's FLASH and Rentrack's Box Office Essentials data collecting services.

The system, due to be launched in May, is being orchestrated by the newly-renamed Korean Film Council (KOFIC), which took over the long-delayed computerised system - which calculates box-office information in real time at a central server - from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2002.

It will connect the ticketing systems of participating theatres by broadband internet, and will revive the publication of weekly box-office charts after public disagreements led to the suspension of reporting in early 2003.

Nonetheless, the system has faced hurdles in persuading exhibitors to take part. On April 7, the Seoul Theater Association publicly rejected KOFIC's request to join the system, uncomfortable with surrendering control over the release of such information (which, among other things, will be used to assess taxes).

Adoption of the system will, however, also mean a 20-day reduction in the nation's controversial Screen Quota System for participating theatres.

The group described the 20-day reduction in the Screen Quota as "almost meaningless," given the current 50%+ market share of local cinema. The Screen Quota obliges cinemas to screen Korean films for up to 40% of the year.

However, after some public misgivings by market leader CGV, the nation's major multiplex chains have now signed on, accounting for a total 38% of the nation's screens and 60% of total box-office.

KOFIC Chairman Lee Choong-jik said he hopes to coax 80% of the nation's screens onto the system by the end of the year. The organisation is also considering lobbying for further tax benefits to theatres which join the system.

Once operational, the system will tally the sale of any ticket nationwide in a space of three minutes.