The Korean Film Council (KOFIC) has announced first quarter figures that show an estimated 10% drop in admissions year-on-year. South Korea saw 35.58 million admissions to the tune of $233.13m (KW231.2bn) from Jan 1- March 31, 2008.

KOFIC's report notes that, considering the fact that the number of releases for this same period each year has been rising of late - 75 films in 2006, 98 in 2007, and 114 in 2008 - on top of the fact that the number of screens has gone up 10% since last year, the situation is not good.

This was due to the lack of large-size box office hits as the first quarter is traditionally a low season influenced by the extended drawing power of the past year's Christmas season releases.

The year 2006 had the record-breaking King And The Clown which was released in Dec of 2005, and 2007 had films such as 200 Pounds Beauty and Night At The Museum, but 2008 had no such films.

With monthly statistics only available on a nationwide level starting this year, the report compares year-on-year box office in Seoul.

KOFIC analyses that this year's unspectacular results are due to the lacklustre performance of foreign films. Although more US, Chinese and European films screened this year than last, foreign films saw a drop of more than 13% in Seoul, while local films saw a 3% rise in market share. (Traditionally, audiences in the capital watch less local films than in the provinces).

Direct distributors of US films have seen a 32.4% fall in admissions year-on-year in Seoul, while there has been an increase in the number of US films released through local distributors (14 in 2006, 18 in 2007, and 30 in 2008).

Nationwide, local films took a 58.3% market share of first-run films. Direct distributed US studio films took 19.8%, while US imports took 17.1% for a total of 36.9% market share for US films. Chinese films took 2.3%, Japanese 1.4% and European films 1.1%.

Amongst distributors, CJ Entertainment led the pack with 20.3% of the market, with Showbox Mediaplex following at 17%.

Notably Sidus FNH, a subsidiary of major local telco Korea Telecom, debuted at number three with 12.2% of the market with four releases, and SK Telecom came in at number eight with 5.3% of the market.

Coming in fourth, 20th Century Fox took 6.7%, followed by Studio 2.0 with 6.5%, Sony Pictures Releasing/ Buena Vista International Korea with 5.9%, Warner Brothers with 5.7% and Prime Entertainment with 5.7% as well (but slightly less gross), and Lotte Entertainment with 4.8%.

South Korea Top 10 (first quarter 2008)

[Title (origin) Distributor / Box office admissions / gross]

1. The Chaser (Korea) Showbox Mediaplex / 4,724,263 / $31.88m

2. Forever The Moment (Korea) Sidus FNH / 4,043,293 / $26.35m

3. Jumper (US) 20th Century Fox Korea / 1,685,461 / $11.09m

4. Open City (Korea) CJ Entertainment / 1,612,803 / $10.66m

5. Once Upon A Time In Corea (Korea) SK Telecom / 1,562,752 / $10.26m

6. The Devil's Game (Korea) Prime Entertainment / 1,496,215 / $9.95m

7. Bee Movie (US) CJ Entertainment / 1,238,122 / $7.42m

8. Lovers Of 6 Years (Korea) Studio 2.0 / 1,123,294 / $7.52m

9. 10,000 B.C. (US) Warner Brothers Korea / 1,085,308 / $7.14m

10. Vantage Point (US) Sony Pictures Releasing Buena Vista International Korea / 1,011,451 / $6.68m

Top 10 Local Films (first quarter 2008)

[Title (Distributor) Box office admissions / gross]

1. The Chaser (Showbox Mediaplex) 4,724,263 / $31.88m

2. Forever The Moment (Sidus FNH) 4,043,293 / $26.35m

3. Open City (CJ Entertainment) 1,612,803 / $10.66m

4. Once Upon A Time In Corea (SK Telecom) 1,562,752 / $10.26m

5. The Devil's Game (Prime Entertainment) 1,496,215 / $9.95m

6. Lovers Of 6 Years (Studio 2.0) 1,123,294 / $7.52m

7. Ba:Bo (CJ Entertainment) 970,788 / $6.33m

8. Fate (CJ Entertainment) 759,032 / $5.06m

9. Hellcats (Cinema Service) 590,039 / $3.82m

10. A Man Who Was Superman (CJ Entertainment) 559,867 / $3.69m