South Korean cinema admissions have hit a record high in the first half of 2012, increasing by 21% to 82.7 million, according to the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).

The figure tops that of the first half of 2006, the first year biannual stats began to be published and also the year that recorded the highest total admissions at year’s end.

This year’s first half box office total came in at $561m (KW639bn). Local films took 53.5% of box office gross while US films took 41.3%, followed by European films with 3.6%, Japanese films with 0.7 and Chinese films 0.3%.

KOFIC analysts credit audience members in their 30s and 40s as the driving force behind greater ticket sales in this year’s first half. All seven of the Korean films in the Top 10 were aimed at audiences in that demographic. Yoon Jong-bin’s Nameless Gangster: Rules Of The Time, in particular, starred Choi Min-shik and Ha Jung-woo in a period piece set during the military dictatorships of the 80s and 90s with implications that bleed into contemporary Korean society.

Hollywood hit The Avengers topped the overall charts, followed by local films Nameless Gangster, All About My Wife, Architecture 101, Dancing Queen and Unbowed. The no. 7 and 8 rankings were taken by Men In Black 3 and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, followed again by Korean films Helpless and The Concubine.

In distributor rankings, CJ E&M took 21.5% of total box office gross, followed by Sony Pictures Releasing Buena Vista International Korea with 18.1%, Lotte Entertainment with 16%, N.E.W. with 14.1% and Showbox Mediaplex with 9.4%.